(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Moncler SpA’s hotline just blinged. The brand, sported by Drake in his video for the popular song of that name, is being courted by Kering SA, according to Bloomberg News.
Moncler has been a fashion-hit maker itself. If Francois-Henri Pinault’s Kering wants to get its hands on it, the Gucci owner will have to pay a price as rich as that commanded by one of its $1,000-plus down jackets.
The Italian brand, with a market capitalization of 11 billion euros ($12.2 billion), would bring a sizable name that’s still capable of growth to Kering, valued at 69 billion euros. It would also usefully reduce the French group’s reliance on Gucci, which now accounts for more than 60% of group sales and 80% of operating profit.
Moncler has scope to add further stores, particularly flagship locations, in China. While it has successfully expanded its range of products from its core down jackets into knitwear, there is an opportunity in bags and accessories. Kering’s expertise would bolster these ambitions. Digital marketing skills and the French company’s focus on sustainability could be useful too, as younger luxury buyers’ concerns about natural resources, such as down and fur, shape their buying habits.
But Moncler won’t come cheap. Assuming a 25% premium over Wednesday’s closing price, a takeover would cost about 12 billion euros, adjusting for estimated net cash of 550 million euros. That equates to about 20.5 times this year’s likely Ebitda, exceeding the multiple that Kering’s French arch-rival LVMH has offered for the iconic diamond and jewelry brand Tiffany & Co.
With Moncler forecast to make about 750 million euros of operating profit in 2023, the returns from a deal would be a mere 5% after tax, unless Kering could turbocharge the business. Given that the target is already well run under Remo Ruffini, its chief executive officer and biggest shareholder, that looks like a tall order. Moncler's operating margin is already strong at about 30%.
This wouldn’t be a case of taking a tired brand and rejuvenating it. So the pressure would be on Kering to engineer ways of achieving higher sales in order to earn returns at closer to the 7%-8% level that would make a deal easier to justify.
The French house can afford Moncler. Assuming an all-cash deal, net debt would increase from 0.4 times Ebitda to 2.4 times. That’s manageable. Kering also has a 16% stake in sportswear maker Puma SE, worth about 1.6 billion euros, to play with. But a deal would wrap up much of Kering’s acquisition firepower up in a puffer jacket, leaving little room to expand into other areas, such as jewelry.
There is better value to be found elsewhere, for example in Britain’s Burberry Group Plc, whose recovery plan has yet to pay off. Kering could also bring the skills it used to reinvigorate the Gucci brand to Prada SpA or Salvatore Ferragamo SpA. While this could mean more upfront investment, there is a much bigger turnaround potential.
Although Burberry has no controlling family, Prada and Ferragamo do. So far, they have shown no indications of wanting to sell. A reshuffle of Moncler’s ownership recently reduced Ruffini’s stake to 22.5%
Even so, Moncler’s down jackets are best known for keeping out the cold. The company has plenty to help it repel a predator, or more likely, make them pay a bulky price.
--With assistance from Chris Hughes.
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Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.
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