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Pesenti’s Italmobiliare enters race for Italian mid-sized firm fund portfolio, allying with Tikehau

by Carlo Festa

The Italmobiliare investment holding company owned by the Pesenti family has entered the race for the portfolio of medium-sized Italian companies of the Fondo Italiano d’Investimento (FII). It has decided to join the French investment manager Tikehau in an equal joint venture for the offer to purchase all of FII’s holdings, managed by Fondo Italiano d’Investimento sgr spa.

The Pesenti family holding’s arrival on the scene should help the French financial group, whose proposal has been rivaling another offer from the U.S. group Neuberger Berman for weeks.

Both offers are worth around €300 million, according to sources close to the matter. Neuberger has adjusted its offer recently to equal that of Tikehau.

It remains to be understood if the Pesenti family's arrival could unblock the situation: for weeks a decision has been awaited from the subscribers of the Italian fund, who, flanked by advisors Credit Suisse, are tending toward launching exclusive negotiations with Italmobiliare-Tikehau.

It is not surprising that the Italian holding has focused its attention on the dossier. At the moment, it is following a two-pronged strategy, with direct investments, including minority stakes, alongside the buyouts of the private equity firm Clessidra, bought last year from the heirs of its founder Claudio Sposito.

On the other hand, there is the offer from Neuberger Berman, which has launched into private equity in Italy thanks to an alliance with Intesa Sanpaolo. Neuberger still does not seem out of the race, also considering the plan at the base of the offer: the launch of a listed vehicle to invest in Italian mid-sized companies, as interest for personal savings plans grows.

FII’s portfolio is made up of minority stakes in 23 companies that operate in different sectors, from the food to the IT industry, with significant growth in turnover and potential exposure toward foreign markets. Among the most well-known names are Tbs Group, Rigoni di Asiago, Megadyne, Italian Entertainment Group, Forgital Group and Ligabue.

The project of the fund was launched by state holding company CDP in 2010. The decision to sell the portfolio of direct stakes was due to a strategic repositioning.

There is an important aspect influencing the closure of the operation: rumors around the sale have raised several concerns among owners of the companies which the fund has stakes in. The owners have raised their voices through the mediation of Confindustria, trying to influence the choice, or at least, to obtain guarantees of continuity of management and relationships.

Both offers aim to provide continuity to the economic and strategic support of the companies, in line with the project launched in 2010 by CDP.

The selling of the portfolio of the fund led by Carlo Mammola is a unique deal because it involves not only CDP as a stakeholder-seller but also the main Italian banks (Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit are present in the capital of the asset management company that manages the FII and subscribers of the fund).

The two banks are positioned on opposing fronts: Intesa Sanpaolo has favoured Neuberger’s offer from the start, while UniCredit is tending more to favour Tikehau’s proposal.
Now we may have reached the turning point.