* 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 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
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)