Jun 22, 2011
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Prada shares may sag after disappointing IPO

Jun 22, 2011

June 22 - Italy's Prada hits the Hong Kong bourse on Friday, but the latest luxury brand to target Asia's booming capital markets may see its share price sag thanks to choppy global conditions.

Hong Kong's profile as a luxury magnet was boosted in January when Prada said it would list its shares there (Photo:AFP, Peter Parks)

Concerns that Prada's stock is overpriced, and a tax hurdle that could shrink investors' profit, may also dampen enthusiasm for the family-controlled company in the Asian financial hub, analysts said.

Prada last week reportedly sold 423.2 million shares at HK$39.50 ($5), raising a less-than-expected $2.14 billion, after earlier saying it could raise as much as $2.6 billion before any option to issue extra shares, which could have pushed the Initial Public Offering to $3 billion in all.

The Milan-based firm, which is floating 20 percent of its shares, had previously said it might price the stock as high as HK$48.

The lowered price was a clear signal of weaker-than-expected demand, but some investors may still dismiss the stock as too rich.

"Prada is overpriced when you compare it with other luxury brand companies like LVMH," Francis Lun, managing director of Hong Kong's Lyncean Holdings, told AFP.

"The response from retail investors has been disappointing. I think you can blame it on the (share) price and the tax issue. In June, the markets also tanked. All those factors contributed to the lacklustre response," he added.

The Prada listing comes at a time of unease in global markets which has seen some firms delay or cancel their listings in Hong Kong, the world's number-one IPO market for the past two years.

Earlier this month, Australian miner Resourcehouse shelved an IPO originally slated to raise as much as $3.6 billion, citing weak market conditions.

And luggage maker Samsonite had a poor trading debut in Hong Kong last week with its shares closing nearly eight percent below their IPO price.

"Samsonite was a precursor for Prada. But I think longer term their prospects are good," Lun said. "Prada has a good brand and they do well in China."

Some of Hong Kong's savvy stock buyers may be turned off by Italian tax rules that could shrink their gains.

Hong Kong and Rome do not have a tax treaty in place so shareholders in the territory would have to pay a 12.5 percent Italian capital gains tax, and lose 27 percent of their dividend income in a separate withholding tax.

Capital gains tax does not exist in Hong Kong and most of the city's institutional investors are not used to accounting for it. However, it remains unclear how Italy's tax department would enforce the rules on overseas investors.

The fashion house, which includes the Prada, Miu Miu, Church's and Car Shoe brands and is 95 percent owned by the Prada family and executives, is the latest high-end fashion brand to tap the huge Chinese market, which is also the world's fastest-growing market for luxury goods.

US upmarket brand Coach has said it plans to list its shares in Hong Kong by year's end, while British fashion label Burberry is reportedly eyeing a listing in the city as well.

China is forecast to be the world's top buyer of products such as cosmetics, handbags, watches, shoes and clothes by 2015, according to consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Asian IPOs are also seen as a valuable way of increasing awareness of foreign brands.

The rush to list in Hong Kong has seen ads splashed across billboards and newspaper pages, to generate interest among the city's retail investors for the luxury firms' stock sales, as much as their handbags and shoes.

by Peter Brieger

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