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Armani: The family business isn't for sale

By Giulia Cambieri

French luxury groups PPR and LVMH, which in the throes of "shopping fever" acquired a number of Italian family businesses recently, have no chance of getting their hands on the Giorgio Armani Group. 

That's according to the company's chief executive, Giorgio Armani, who said the family business, which includes brands such as Emporio Armani and Armani Exchange, is not for sale.

But, speaking at the end of his men's fashion show in Milan, Armani, who founded the group in 1975, told journalists that French conglomerates are still interested in buying Italian menswear brands and this trend, which he called "shopping fever", is likely to continue.

His comments follow PPR's recent acquisition of menswear company Brioni in November, while LVMH, the luxury group owned by the Arnault family, purchased jeweller Bulgari in March.

However, a leading academic told CampdenFB that Armani’s concerns are not justified, as in Europe, Italy has the lowest number of companies controlled by foreign shareholders and this isn’t likely to change in the near future.

“While the most striking cases, such as Parmalat [acquired by French Lactalis in April] and some companies in the fashion industry, typically make the headlines, data shows that there is no evidence of a ‘barbarian invasion’ of foreign companies wanting to buy in Italy,” said Fabiano Schivardi, professor of economics at the University of Cagliari and research fellow at Rome-based Einaudi Institute of Economics and Finance.

In 2010, Schivardi co-authored a study comparing the ownership structure of more than 14,000 manufacturing companies across seven countries in Europe.

The research found that only 4.1% of companies in Italy are majority controlled by foreign shareholders, compared to 6.3% in Germany, 10.3% in France and 12.2% in the UK.

According to Schivardi, the ongoing euro-debt crisis means these figures are unlikely to change hugely in Italy.

“On the one hand, there is a chance that some Italian firms will end up in foreign hands ... Many companies, especially financial firms and banks, are selling off, as their values hit a record low since 2006,” he said.

“On the other [hand], [at] this moment Italy is a high-risk country for investors and this can reduce their appetite for our companies," he added.

After the fashion show, Armani also said that in the late 1990s, LVMH was interested in acquiring the Milan-based group.

“It was long time ago, but still now when LVMH’s owner [Bernard Arnault] sees me, he makes a face,” Armani told Italy’s news agency Ansa. 

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