Prada ‘optimistic’ of Milan listing, heir of fashion group says

The heir to the Prada fashion empire said rising geopolitical tensions have made a plan to list in its homebase of Milan more important to maintain “bridges” between Europe and China more than a decade after it went public in Hong Kong.

The Financial Times first reported last year that the $19.3bn group, which owns brands including Prada, Miu Miu and Church’s, was exploring a dual-listing to tap European investors but the process has been delayed by initial regulatory hurdles. Prada listed shares in Hong Kong in 2011.

Speaking at the FT’s Business of Luxury summit in Monaco, Lorenzo Bertelli said he was “optimistic on a dual listing even if nothing is decided yet”, without elaborating on timing.

“When we listed there [in Hong Kong] we saw it as a way to connect Europe to Asia, now we see [the dual-listing in Milan] as a way to build bridges between east and west at a time of increased global tensions,” the 35-year-old Bertelli said.

European luxury groups are benefiting from booming sales in China following Beijing’s decision to lift all Covid-19 restrictions. But they are also facing calls from European leaders such as EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen to “de-risk” their business in the country amid greater tensions over the fate of Taiwan.

Bertelli said he also saw threats within China, linked to growing inequalities. “The biggest risk to luxury is too much social tension between rich and poor,” he said of China as well as western markets.

People close to the family have said Bertelli, who is head of corporate social responsibility at the group founded by his parents Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada, had been an important adviser to his parents on strategic decisions for years.

Bertelli, who has worked for the group since 2017, said there was little doubt he would eventually succeed his father. “Whether it’s three, four or five years from now, it doesn’t matter. The [family and management] will recognise when it is the right time,” he said.

The former racing car driver was ready to take on the “challenge” but was under no pressure, he said. “I risked my life when I was driving cars, so that was a different kind of pressure, I always know that if you work hard then the pressure disappears a bit because you know you have done your best.”

On Monday he hinted at heated family discussions over the business. “My mother and I are Taurus, so is my brother and my father is Aries, so it’s quite a challenging environment,” Bertelli said, tongue in cheek, adding: “Working with both your parents is not something I would recommend to anybody.”

Bertelli, who studied philosophy and has a passion for sports and politics, added he had supported the recent appointment of chief executive Andrea Guerra so he could “learn from someone outside the family”.

Prada in January announced that Guerra, a former chief executive at eyewear maker Luxottica, would immediately take over from group executives Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada to facilitate the succession transition.

Patrizio Bertelli stayed on as group chair while Miuccia Prada is the co-creative director of her eponymous brand alongside Raf Simons. The group has also appointed its first external chief executive of the brand, Gianfranco D’Attis.

Industry experts and investors see Lorenzo Bertelli as one of the few prominent figures in the Italian fashion industry who could create a domestic luxury conglomerate to compete with the likes of France’s Kering and LVMH.

“We are looking but when the time will come we will have to see what’s left that makes sense for us to buy,” Bertelli said.

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