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Gucci backer agrees first deal in Italy in six years
Investcorp, the global alternatives investor that has backed Italian companies including fashion brand Gucci, has agreed its first deal in Italy in six years.

The Bahrain-based firm has agreed to buy an 80% stake in Dainese, an Italian maker of protective gear for motorcycling, winter sports, biking and horse riding, from founder-owner Lino Dainese for an enterprise value of €130 million.
Dainese, who founded the company in 1972, will retain a minority stake in the business, according to a statement from Investcorp.
The deal is Investcorp’s first in Italy since November 2008, when the firm partnered with Barclays Private Equity — now known as Equistone Partners Europe — to buy vending machine manufacturer N&W Global Vending from Argan Capital and Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity. This is not for lack of trying, said Hazem Ben-Gacem, head of Investcorp’s European corporate investment team.
Investcorp was one of a number of private equity bidders looking to buy a 20% stake in Italian fashion house fashion house Gianni Versace, which was eventually sold to global alternatives giant Blackstone Group in February in a deal that gave the company an enterprise value of €1 billion.
“While some may still have some skeptical views on Italy and the country, in our view this is absolutely the right time,” said Ben-Gacem. “It’s one of the best industrial bases in Europe and it’s a market that thrives on family-owned businesses looking for international expansion.
“The outlook looks more positive - the next five years definitely look more positive than the last five years - and there is definitely still a discount for businesses sold in Italy, which you do not see in the UK or Scandinavia and definitely do not see in the US.
"[Dainese] is a business which we acquired for about a 10 times [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation] multiple. If this was in the UK, I guess it would go for 11.5 to 12 times, and if it was in the US, probably 14 times. So I think there remains a pricing discount because of the question marks around the macro outlook.”
Investcorp has a long track record of investing in Italy. Upon entering Europe in 1985, its first deal on the continent was Riva, an Italian maker of luxury speedboats and yachts, which it bought the same year.
It enjoyed huge success with the initial public offering of Gucci, a formerly loss-making business that it bought in 1993 for $220 million and floated in Amsterdam and New York three years later at a valuation of more than $1.8 billion. The firm also owns Italian pump manufacturer Ceme, which it bought from Barclays Private Equity in July 2008.
Dainese did not use an investment bank to advise on the sale process, according to Ben-Gacem.



“Pretty much every single week, at least for two days, one of us is in Milan," said Ben-Gacem. "So we tend to be very actively present there, although I appreciate since November 2008 this is only the second deal we have done in Italy. We have been very unsuccessful on some higher profile ones, but that’s the nature of our business.”
Ben-Gacem leads a team of three investment professionals that cover the southern European country, all of which have been hired since 2010. "There are two markets which we identified that we are going to be significantly more aggressive in, that is Italy and Spain,” said Ben-Gacem. “That is why we proactively went out and brought on board some experienced executives.”
The acquisition of Dainese comes at a quiet period for private equity deals in Italy, a country that looks likely to slide back into a third recession in six years due to sluggish growth and government debt. Just 36 investments worth $4.4 billion have been recorded so far this year, according to data provider Dealogic. This is roughly half the 71 deals worth $9.4 billion that were recorded during the same period at the peak of the market in 2008.