by Jonathan Braude | Published June 18, 2012 at 4:04 PM
Moleskine srl, the Italian maker of upscale artists' sketchbooks, notebooks, handbags and digital-reader covers, plans an initial public offering in its home city of Milan later this year, defying the gloom in the wider economy and the skittishness of IPO investors.
German private equity firm Syntegra Capital Advisors Ltd., which owns 67.7% of the company, has reportedly brought in Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Italian bank Mediobanca SpA and UBS to run the offering,
Moleskine makes products based on a simple style once favored by artists and writers including Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin, but it has turned the concept into a luxury brand it believes will attract investors.
Today, Moleskine claims the name "encompasses a family of nomadic objects [...] dedicated to our mobile identity." In addition to the notebooks, the company also claims to produce "a series of objects for the creativity of the contemporary nomad."
A successful flotation would follow the April IPOs of premium luggage maker Tumi Inc. in New York and Italian cashmere house Bruno Cucinelli SpA in Milan. But last month's decision of London jeweler Graff Diamonds Corp. to pull a $1 billion Hong Kong IPO, citing "consistently declining stock markets," might also serve as a timely warning that the market for premium brands may not be invulnerable to wider market trends.
No one from Syntegra was immediately available for comment on Monday, June 18. But a Milan-based Italian partner, Marco Ariello, told Reuters earlier in the day that he hoped to file listing documents for Moleskine in early September and launch an offering in the fourth quarter.
It was unclear whether Index Ventures, a London venture capital firm that took a 15% stake in Moleskine in January 2011, would be selling all or part of its stake in the IPO, although Ariello was quoted as saying the offering would likely be made up mostly of existing shares. Index partners Tony Zappalá and Giuseppe Zocco had not returned e-mails by press time Monday requesting comment.
Separately on Monday, Index Ventures announced it had raised a new €350 million ($440 million) early-stage technology fund. It said the fund was part of €1 billion of new capital the firm had raised in the past 12 months to invest in early-stage, growth technology and life sciences companies.
Syntegra, formerly known as SG Capital Europe Advisors Ltd., first acquired a 75% stake in Moleskine in 2006, for a reported €60 million, before bringing in Index as part of a recapitalization. Index's investment was not disclosed, but Syntegra said at the time it had also secured new financing of €64 million from GE Capital Corp. and Banco Popolare di Milano Scarl.