September 22, 2016 / 7:31 PM / in 3 years

Belgium's D'Ieteren agrees to buy 41 percent of Moleskine

MILAN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian luxury car importer D’Ieteren has agreed to buy a 41 percent stake in notebook maker Moleskine and will launch a mandatory offer for the remaining shares of the Italian company, which could see it delisted from the Milan bourse.

D’Ieteren, in a statement on Thursday, said it had agreed to buy Moleskine shares at 2.40 euros each, offering a 12 percent premium to the Italian company’s closing price on Thursday of 2.14 euros. The offer values all of the company at around 510 million euros ($572 million).

The Belgian group will buy the initial stake from private equity groups and reference shareholders Syntegra Capital and Index Ventures.

Its mandatory takeover offer will be launched in the final quarter of this year and Moleskin will be delisted if the required threshold of share ownership is reached, it said.

Founded in 1997, Moleskine is most widely known for its pocket-size notebooks that emulate those used by writers Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac and painters Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.

The Milan-based company listed in April 2013 at a price of 2.30 euros a share. In recent years it has branched out to bags and digital products, among others, and opened a cafe in Milan.

“Our ambition is to be able to help entrepreneurs while acting as a strategic sparring partner,” D’Ieteren Chief Executive Axel Miller told a conference call, adding his group was a long-term investor.

“An aspirational lifestyle brand has been built and this is something we can bring to the next level.”

D’Ieteren’s businesses include importing Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Porsche cars into Belgium. The company also owns glass repair and replacement group Belron.

Chief Financial Officer Arnaud Laviolette said the group would seek to expand Moleskine’s reach among a larger target group of urban, well educated 18-50 year-olds, with some creative ambitions.

“We believe there is much more potential in this market,” he said.

D’Ieteren said it would finance the initial investment through available cash, while shares acquired in the takeover bid would be paid for through a mixture of cash and debt.

Goldman Sachs and Cleary Gottlieb advised D’Ieteren on the deal, while Rothschild acted as financial adviser to Moleskine.

Reporting by Agnieszka Flak in Milan and Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels; Editing by Susan Fenton

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