Prada sale begins - with £9bn price tag

Prada aims to jump on the Asian luxury goods bandwagon with a Hong Kong flotation. Is European fashion selling its soul?

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
The Devil may wear Prada, but even Beelzebub himself would struggle to match the £9bn valuation that the Italian fashion brand appears to have attached to itself. The designer group plans to float on the Hong Kong stock exchange, and hopes to raise a hefty £1.6bn by flogging a 16.5% stake in the company.

Not that the Asian market needs a prod from a red-hot pitch-fork. Shoe brands Jimmy Choo and Kurt Geiger have both been sold for hefty sums in recent weeks (for £500m and £215m respectively) on the back of rising demand, much of which is coming from China’s burgeoning class of newly-loaded high rollers. But given that Prada has operated out of European fashion centre Milan for nearly a century, the move marks quite a shift. Asia already accounts for 40% of its £1.8bn sales, and it clearly thinks that the real growth potential for python leather handbags and Miu Miu dresses lies squarely in the East.

Or in the words of Patrizio Bertelli, who runs the 95%-family-owned company with his wife, the founder's granddaughter Miuccia Prada: ‘If the bourse represents a market, then we should go to a bourse where things are happening.’

Everyone else has their eye in that direction too. Burberry boss Angela Ahrendts said Asia-Pacific was now her firm's most important sales region, and the brand now hires Mandarin speakers to work in its Paris, New York and London stores to take care of its biggest customers - Asian tourists. While things may be slow on the high-street generally, luxury goods have clearly lost none of their glitz. Sales of designer clothes, watches and handbags are expected to hit a record-breaking £165bn this year.

If Prada is successful in attracting this sum, it will become the most valuable fashion brand in the world, ahead of LVMH. But it’ll be easier said than done. Although it made very healthy profits of £210m last year, a valuation of £9bn still represents a huge (some would say ridiculous) multiple. What’s more, there have been hardly any flotations of this size in Hong Kong lately (indeed, one resources company pulled their listing at the weekend, complaining about market conditions). Nor does Prada have the greatest record with the stock market; it has already reversed plans to float on several occasions, with previous plans scuppered by 9/11 and later the credit crunch. Maybe the Devil’s trying to tell it something?

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