Milan’s Piazza Affari will remember 2014 for good news and bad news. The good news is that with the IPO, debuts are back. After three years of poor performance (with quotations at their lowest, only one between 2011 and 2012), five companies landed at the Milan Stock Exchange, more than double the figures from last year. The bad news is that there were also five unsuccessful quotations.
On the wake of the initial success of Moncler (which inflamed the end of 2013, a year with only 2 debuts, Moncler and Moleskine), 2014 started in full swing: four entrants in six months. Nearly one every month: the asset management company, Anima; the rating and database company, Cerved; the online bank, Fineco; the shipbuilding company, Fincantieri.
But halfway through the year enthusiasm waned. The “big chill” over the Summer markets, with the big slide in July, closed the opportunity window: the first troubling signs came with the u-turn made by the betting and gambling company Sisal and by the pharmaceutical company Rottapharm (which was then sold to a Swedish fund).
In the Fall there was a succession of flops: from Italia On Line, and the Intercos’ perfumes, to the paper mills of Fedrigoni. At last RAIWay (the towers’ division for the telecommunication of public TV) interrupted the negative streak, avoiding an ignominious year’s closure for the Stock Exchange .
At the end of the day, Palazzo Mezzanotte made a toast anyway: five new companies (such a number of debuts hasn’t been seen for at least four years) and nearly €3 billion of capital raised.
The anomaly of the Italian market is that quotations always go in waves. It is more a sign of financial opportunism than it is of a market culture. It has been like this for at least fifteen years: the New Economy in the late 90s; the boom of the M&A in the mid 2000s.
And in 2014 there was this new mini-wave, which, however, marked the luxury’s absence: the Italian Stock Exchange wants to become a sort of Luxury Stock Exchange taking advantage of made in Italy, the only true global industry of the country. But paradoxically, in the richest year for debuts, none of them were of luxury goods.
On the contrary, individual stocks have literally collapsed: Brunello Cucinelli lost 28%, Salvatore Ferragamo 27%, Safilo 38%, Tod’s and Yoox even lost 40%. And after the debut flare, also the Remo Ruffini label started losing ground and now it went back down, close to the original price of the debut (-25% in 2014).
Going into details, it turns out that 2014, the year of debuts, brings back other distortions of Italy’s capitalism: shareholders use the Exhange to get richer rather than to capitalise the company. Yes, nearly €3 billion have been raised, but only a small part was in capital increase: just €580 million. Less than 20% of the resources went to strengthen the budgets.
The real 2014 news in Piazza Affari is the success of AIM. With a quiet start (as a surrogate of AIM of London), and amongst a lot of skepticism, the list for micro-enterprises is enjoying resounding success:36 quotations in the last two years, 15 of which were in 2013 and 2014 went even better with another 21, including the renewable energy companies Green Power, Ecosuntek, and Gala, the production studios Lucisano Group and Notorious Pictures, the dotcoms MailUP, Go Internet, and Tech-Value. Surely they are small capitalizations, but Aim revealed it is as an alternative to the banks and to the suffocating credit crunch.
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