(In Jan. 29 story, corrects fifth paragraph to show Investcorp
was once an investor in Gucci and Tiffany, making clear that it
no longer owns those stakes.)
By Massimo Gaia
MILAN Jan 29 Investcorp, one of the
Middle East's largest private equity firms, is on the lookout
for Italian luxury and retail brands that want to expand
"We have spent a lot of time talking to the owners of some
very well-known Italian brands and are always on the lookout for
interesting brands with the potential to internationalise,"
Hazem Ben-Gacem, head of corporate investments, Europe, said.
Ben-Gacem also told Reuters he was not too concerned about
next month's election in Italy.
"Italy has always had political risks. What we would like,
however, is a stable environment where investors and businesses
have clarity and confidence in the government's intention."
The Bahrain-based firm, which was once an investor in French
group PPR's Gucci unit and U.S. group Tiffany & Co
, had $11.5 billion in assets under management as of
Italian luxury brands such as Giorgio Armani, Roberto
Cavalli, Missoni, and Ermenegildo Zegna have been reluctant to
sell and are still controlled by their founding families.
The need to expand internationally to counter the downturn
in home markets has prompted firms such as Prada and
Versace and to seek outside investors.
The strong performance of luxury brands has made them a
target for cash-rich buyers seeking recognition as well as
Economic uncertainty weighed on purchases of European brands
last year. The number of acquisitions of western European
brands by emerging market investors slowed 5 percent to 326 in
2012, according to Thomson Reuters data.
"I know that the common perception is doom and
disappointment," Ben-Gacem said. "Europe is a very complicated
beast. But it is one where fortunes do change and we conduct our
business in a logical and structural manner."
Ben-Gacem said Investcorp would be more active in the region
as the economy recovered and would continue to invest on a
In November, it bought Danish luxury retailer Georg Jensen
for $140 million from Axcel Capital Partners.
In Italy, the company invested in Gucci in the 1990s and in
the Riva yachting brand, part of Ferretti, in 1985. Gucci is now
fully controlled by PPR.
It currently co-owns Italian firm N&W Global Vending, maker
of snack vending machines, which it bought in 2008.
Investcorp said this month it would announce a new deal in
early February, adding it would be an international company.
(Writing by Antonella Ciancio; Editing by Dan Lalor)