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MILAN, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Italy's Moleskine has taken a step closer to listing its shares on the Milan stock market, a move that would make the notebook maker the third Italian luxury brand to go public in less than two years.
In a statement on Friday, the maker of thread-bound jotters modelled on originals used by Vincent Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway said Italian market regulator Consob had approved the first of a series of documents needed for an IPO.
While a series of IPOs have been put on hold worldwide because of market volatility, Italy's luxury brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Brunello Cucinelli, and Prada have proved resilient and successfully gone public since June 2011.
Moleskine, which has already received the go ahead from the Italian stock exchange for an initial public offering, is controlled by private equity fund Syntegra Capital.
Syntegra partner Marco Ariello told Reuters in June the offering was likely to be made up mostly of existing shares and Syntegra intended to keep some of its holding following the listing to benefit from its expected future value.
On Friday Moleskine said sales rose 17 percent in 2012, helped by strong turnover in Asia and the United States.
The company booked revenue of 66.6 million euros ($88 million) in 2011, while core earnings (EBITDA) rose 26.9 percent to 28.6 million euros.
"We feel particularly encouraged by growth registered by our new retail and online sales and of new products", Chief Executive Arrigo Berni said in the statement.
Moleskine could be valued around 600 million euros on a multiple of 15 times its forecast 2013 EBITDA of 40 million euros.
Other Italian listed luxury firms are trading at 14.5 times forecast 2012 core earnings (EBITDA) which is above the luxury goods sector in general, according to a report by Bank of America-Merril Lynch.
Cashmere goods maker Cucinelli, whose pastel-coloured sweaters have been worn by Britain's Prince William, was valued around 12 times 2011 EBITDA last April, when it was listed.
$1 = 0.7568 euros Reporting by Antonella Ciancio and Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle