* Initial public offering priced at 2.3 euros per share
* Fourth Italian upmarket brand to join market since 2011
* Shares to trade on Milan stock exchange from April 3 (Recasts with official price, demand)
By Elisa Anzolin and Antonella Ciancio
MILAN, March 28 (Reuters) - Upmarket Italian notebook maker Moleskine priced its shares at the middle of a proposed range ahead of its stock market debut next week, with growth potential in Asia and Latin America attracting foreign investors.
The company will be the first to join the Milan stock market since cashmere brand Brunello Cucinelli a year ago and is valued by its initial public offering (IPO) at around 488 million euros ($624 million), or 2.3 euros per share.
Demand within the 2.00 to 2.65 euro price range was more than 3.6 times the shares on offer, the company said.
The maker of black notebooks based on originals used by Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin offered 106.3 million shares, including 12 million new ones, meaning just over 50 percent of the company’s shares will be traded on the market.
Current owners - private equity funds Syntegra Capital and Index Ventures, alongside founder Francesco Franceschi and management - will pocket most of the 244 million euros generated by the sale.
Proceeds of 27.6 million euros from the sale of the new shares will be used to halve debt to 20 million euros.
Demand came from investors in Italy, Europe, Britain, the United States and Asia, the company said.
“The large majority of the book, between 85 and 90 percent, is made of long-term investors,” a source close to the deal said.
Moleskine is the fourth upmarket Italian brand to go public in less than two years, following Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Brunello Cucinelli.
Sharp stock market gains since the start of the year have revived interest in new issues after years of subdued activity.
The company was valued around 14.5 times its 2012 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), a discount to Prada and luxury brand Tumi, but in line with brands with strong margins and growth in foreign markets.
Founded in 1997, the company makes its thread-bound jotters in Asia and plans to expand in China and Latin America.
Moleskine makes only 10 percent of revenues in Italy, where consumer spending has sharply fallen amid the recession.
The market float may rise to 55.18 percent if global coordinators Goldman Sachs, UBS and Mediobanca fully exercise an over-allotment option.
Trading in the shares is due to start on April 3.
$1 = 0.7824 euros Additional reporting by Maria Pia Quaglia, Massimo Gaia,; Editing by Erica Billingham