MILAN — The potential sale of Italy’s giant retailer Gruppo Coin SpA is stirring M&A talk here. Private equity funds The Carlyle Group and Clessidra SGR SpA both expressed interest in the midmarket department store chain on Tuesday.

This story first appeared in the October 6, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

A source close to Carlyle said the fund will start looking at the group’s documents, stating that “Coin is an interesting asset and an opportunity.”

Coin’s controlling shareholder, Financière Tintoretto SA, which is in turn held by Paris-based PAI Partners and Fincoin, has said it is seeking “strategic alternatives to secure the best value of its stake in Gruppo Coin.” Fincoin regroups some members of the founding Coin family with minority stakes. According to Italy’s stock market watchdog, Consob, PAI Partners holds 69.3 percent of Coin, which is listed on the Milan Bourse.

An industry source said Clessidra also sees Coin as a “solid, well-managed group.” On the sidelines of a private equity convention here on Tuesday, Claudio Sposito, chief executive officer and chairman of Clessidra, confirmed the fund’s interest in Coin and told wire service reporters that “given the size” of the group, Clessidra would consider the acquisition “teaming up with other international players.”

According to sources, Coin, whose expansion has been spearheaded by ceo Stefano Beraldo, could be valued at 1.5 billion euros, or $2 billion at current exchange.

The Milan-based Clessidra, founded by Sposito, had been negotiating with Roberto Cavalli to buy a 30 percent stake in the designer’s company until talks came to a halt last year over the issue of price.

The Washington-based Carlyle Group has an Italian division headquartered in Milan and owns 48 percent of luxury outerwear brand Moncler, which is planning to go public on the Milan Stock Exchange next year.

In the first half ended July 31, revenues in Coin stores, which include partners’ concession sales in Coin units, rose 40.3 percent to 802.9 million euros, or $1.04 billion at average exchange, compared to the same period last year.

Last December, Coin took control of Italy’s Upim clothing chain, thus becoming the country’s largest clothing retailer, with plans to reach a total of 900 stores and consolidated revenues of 2 billion euros, or $2.7 billion at current exchange, in the next three years. Coin is converting a number of Upim’s 135 stores, more than 2.2 million square feet of selling space, most often centrally located in top Italian cities, into Coin and OVS Industry units, and upgrading image and product assortment. In addition, there are more than 200 Upim franchised stores, which will maintain their original banners.

Coin also controls fast-fashion retailer OVS Industry. In July, designer Carlo Capasa signed a licensing agreement with OVS Industry for the production and distribution of a new line called Eequal to bow for spring 2011.

Last month, Coin, through OVS Industry, acquired 54 stores that specialize in children’s clothing, part of the Magnolia chain, considerably accelerating its growth plans in that segment.

Coin shares closed up 4.5 percent at 7.75 euros, or $10.60 at current exchange

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