* Moleskine IPO seeks valuation of up to 561 million euros
* Existing, new shares offered at 2.00-2.65 euros each
* Aims to raise up to 280 mln eur for just over 50 pct stake
* Offer runs March 18-27, trading seen from April 3
By Antonella Ciancio
MILAN, March 16 (Reuters) - Italy’s Moleskine will open books on Monday on an initial public offer (IPO) valuing the maker of black notebooks at up to 561 million euros ($733 million) and bringing a majority stake onto the market.
The maker of thread-bound jotters based on originals favoured by Vincent Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway will become the fourth premium Italian brand to go public in under two years, and tap into a stock market that is trading close to multi-year highs.
It said in an prospectus on Saturday that it will offer shares for between 2.00 and 2.65 euros, and aim to start trading on the Milan exchange on April 3.
Moleskine is offering 106.3 million shares, including 12 million new ones, at a valuation of between 10 and 14 times forecast 2013 core earnings (EBITDA) of 40 million euros.
At the top end of that range, the company would be valued in line with upscale brands such as Michael Kors, Tumi and Brunello Cucinelli, the last Italian company to tap the stock market almost a year ago.
If the capital increase is fully subscribed, Moleskine would be valued between 424 million and 561.8 million euros, or up to 600 million euros including debt, netting its current owners a gain of up to 250 million euros.
The owners - private equity funds Syntegra Capital and Index Ventures, along with its founder and management - will offer 94.36 million shares.
The sale will run from Monday to March 27, floating a 50.17 percent stake, or 55.18 percent if global coordinators Goldman Sachs, UBS and Mediobanca fully exercise an over-allotment option.
Founded in 1997 to revive the style of notebook used by writer Bruce Chatwin, Moleskine will follow Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Cucinelli as relatively recent entrants onto the market, and against a tough economic backdrop.
Sharp stock market gains since the start of the year have revived interest in new issues after years of subdued activity.
Moleskine has seen revenues grow around 25 percent a year since Syntegra bought a 75 percent stake for around 60 million euros in 2006.
In early 2011, venture capital firm Index Ventures bought a 15 percent stake. Founder Francesco Franceschi owns 10.6 percent while the management has the remaining 6.5 percent.