* Italian armchair firm to sell to U.S. office furnisher
* Shares rise 18 pct, more than double on the year
* Ferrari family's exit puts some business at risk -analyst
By Isla Binnie
MILAN, Feb 5 U.S. office furnisher Haworth
agreed to pay 2.96 euros ($4) a share for a majority stake in
Poltrona Frau before acquiring the rest of the company in a deal
the Italian upmarket armchair maker hopes will increase its
access to international markets.
Shares in Poltrona Frau soared over 18 percent on Wednesday
after Charme Investments, Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero
di Montezemolo's holding company, and fellow Italian investor
Moschini S.r.L., said they would sell their stakes to the
family-owned U.S. group.
Haworth will then launch a mandatory takeover offer for the
rest of the shares at the same price and delist Poltrona Frau
from the Milan stock exchange. No value was given for the deal,
which Thomson Reuters data puts at about 240 million euros.
Michigan-based Haworth, which employs 6,000 staff and has
600 dealers worldwide, has revenue of $1.4 billion euros while
Poltrona Frau made 247 million euros in 2012.
"We can speed up our growth in North America and in
countries like China and India ... thanks to this agreement,"
Poltrona Frau Chief Executive Dario Rinero told Reuters.
"Together we can make more than $2 billion (in sales), and
benefit from each other's logistics and distribution networks."
Poltrona Frau makes over 40 percent of its sales in Italy,
where consumer spending remains strained as the economy
struggles to emerge from recession, and said in September that
sales in the Americas, identified by consultancy Bain & Co as
the luxury industry's growth engine, had dropped year-on-year.
Italy's luxury goods sector is seen as a bright spot in the
still fragile economy, and firms are attracting interest from
foreign buyers, with three bidders in the running for 20 percent
stake in fashion house Versace, for example.
Poltrona Frau had seen its shares more than double in a
year, before Wednesday's rise.
Haworth's offer values the whole company at about 415
million euros, according to Reuters calculations, about 13 times
forecast core earnings for 2013.
FERRARI FAMILY EXITS
The exit of Charme, which owns 51.3 percent, could endanger
some of Poltrona Frau's fastest-growing business in the future,
said a Milan-based analyst who asked not to be named.
Poltrona Frau makes about 27 percent of sales through its
"Luxury in Motion" division, which creates leather seats and
interiors for yachts, aircraft and car brands including Ferrari,
Maserati and Fiat. Revenue from this segment grew 35 percent
year-on-year in the first nine months of 2013.
"Part of Poltrona Frau's business is generated through
groups that are close to Charme," the analyst said. "The old
shareholder has a good network of connections with Ferrari and
Before moving to Ferrari, Montezemolo was chairman of Fiat
and used to run Italy's main business lobby Confindustria.
Rinero dismissed the suggestion the company could suffer
after Charme, which started building up a stake in Poltrona Frau
in 2003, retreats from the scene.
"We have been active in this division for 30 years," Rinero
said. "The clients we have secured in recent years came to us
because they recognise the quality of our products."
As part of the deal, Haworth has an option to sell back a
4.2 percent stake in Poltrona Frau each to Charme and Moschini.
The transaction is due to be completed by the end of April
2014, subject to approval from antitrust authorities.