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Associated Press
Moncler chairman Remo Ruffini delivers his speech during a presentation of its initial public offering.

Milan bourse aims to be fashion hub

– Moncler, an Italian fashion house known for its down jackets, is launching an initial public offering this month in what Milan’s main stock exchange hopes will boost its plan to become an international hub for luxury goods company listings.

It’s the second attempt at a public listing for Moncler, a formerly French mountainwear company that pulled back two years ago because of a weak market. That it is going ahead bodes well for the Milan Stock Exchange, which is trying to use the city’s mix of financial and fashion know-how to attract luxury goods companies in need of financing – particularly at a time when banks are offering fewer loans.

Currently, 17 luxury producers, including Salvatore Ferragamo shoemaker, Brunello Cucinelli cashmere casualwear, Moleskin bound journals, Tod’s leatherwear and Luxottica eyewearmaker, are listed in Milan for a total sector market value of $43 billion. That’s up from $17.7 billion a decade ago.

“It’s the moment for luxury,” said Gianluca Pacini, an analyst at the bank Intesa San Paolo. Moncler in particular, Pacini said, has a strong business and shown good earnings growth. The company went from 50 million euros in revenues in 2003 to 489 million euros last year, for net earnings of 82.4 million euros, or $113 million.

Raffaele Jerusalemi, chief executive of the Milan Stock Exchange, expects another four or five luxury companies to follow Moncler in the coming months. He says the successful stock launches of Ferragamo and Cucinelli, which have nearly doubled their market value in the last year, are going a long way to persuading small- and medium-sized Italian companies to go to markets for cash.

“There’s a strong change of mentality by this generation,” he said, though he acknowledged it has taken time to reduce reluctance of Italian business owners to open up their books to investors.

“The fear entrepreneurs had about giving out information has changed a bit, also because banks are less able to give out money they need to grow,” Jerusalemi said.

Banks in Italy took huge losses during the financial crisis and are cutting down on risks – that means fewer loans, particularly to small businesses that dominate the fashion world in Italy.