Funds' eye for design

High-end fashion is not the only area where private equity has seen a buying opportunity: luxury design is being billed as a new frontier. Andrea Bonomi, founder and senior principal of fund Investindustrial, has invested in two Milanese design companies in the past year. One, luxury lighting firm Flos; the other last month, in B&B Italia, a high-end furniture designer and manufacturer. The two investments combined were worth more than €500m, according to market sources. Mr Bonomi sees Milan's design industry as having the same potential for international expansion that the city's fashion sector experienced 30 years ago. He says the trend towards urbanisation and "smart" city living means consumers will be eager to pay up for luxury, design-led furniture, lighting and interiors. Milan's emergence as a design capital, with the growth of its annual Salone del Mobile furniture fair, has mirrored the city's rise as a centre of pret-a-porter fashion in the 1980s that gave birth to Armani, Versace and Cavalli. Of his buying spree, Mr Bonomi says he wants to puf together five assets covering ali aspect of interiors. He sees his project as taking 10 years. "This is a guerrilla operation. We are moving fast and ruthlessly across the entire space to create this LVMH of things," he told the Financial Times recently. Mr Bonomi is not alone in his aspiration. A group of Italian investors including Fabio Sattin and Giovanni Campolo from Italian group Private Equity Partners, recently bought Gervasoni, an Italian high-end furniture group. The investors acquired Gervasoni through a new vehicle called Italian Design Brands, which they want to use to buy up more Italian luxury and interiors brands in order to build scale to compete internationally.

7 Luglio, 2015: Financial Times

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