La Rinascente stays at home

Italian buyout firm Investitori Associati is part of an investor consortium that won the auction for La Rinascente’s textile operations. The sales process began last September, with the winning bid pitched at €888m.

The consortium also includes Pirelli, Deutsche Bank Real Estate Global Opportunities and the Italian Borletti family. La Rinascente is being sold by Eurofind Textile, a joint venture between the Agnelli family’s Ifil holding company and Auchan, the French retail chain.

Several other parties were interested in La Rinascente’s non-food department stores, where Giorgio Armani once worked as a window dresser. These included Galeries Lafayette, which was bidding jointly with Redevco, the Dutch-based real estate group. BC Partners had teamed up with Beni Stabili, an Italian property firm, while CVC was working with Morgan Stanley.

La Rinascente posted consolidated net income of €9m on consolidated sales of €925m last year. It operates stores under the La Rinascente and Upim brands and its roots stem back to 1865, when founder Ferdinando Bocconi opened the first shop in Milan.

Last year IFIL sold its stake in La Rinascente’s core supermarket business to Auchan. IFIL, whose core asset is a 30% stake in the unprofitable Fiat, said it will have a net gain of €500m on the sale of La Rinascente. Eurofind delisted La Rinascente in early 2003.

Milan-based Investitori Associati closed its fourth private equity fund, Investitori Associati IV, in 2004 with €700m of commitments. The firm’s third fund, Investitori Associati III, closed on €400m in 2000.

The Italian buyouts market has started the year strongly, notching up a busy quarter, disregarding Blackstone’s jumbo bid for Wind. According to Thomson Financial, there have been seven deals so far for a collective value of around US$500m. Consumer staples has been the busiest industry segment so far, with five deals accrued for a total value of more than US$400m.

Blackstone is bidding for Wind against the Weather Investment consortium, which includes Nawib Sawiris, whose family owns Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Holding, and US investor Wilbur Ross.

It is understood that Blackstone may be planning another bid for Wind in the coming weeks, possibly in association with other financial investors.