AXA PE braves Italian market

The Paris-based firm has made two investments in Italy within a week.

AXA Private Equity has acquired a 70 percent stake in Bruni Glass, a business which designs glass containers for spirits, food and pharmaceutical products, it said in a statement.

The value of the deal was not disclosed, though the founding members and the management of Bruni Glass hold the remaining 30 percent of the company.

This is AXA’s second Italian deal within a week. The Paris-headquartered firm also acquired a 66 percent stake in Limacorporate SpA , an Italian manufacturer in orthopaedics devices. For this deal, AXA joined forces with banking group Intesa Sanpaolo.

Many investors are avoiding Southern Europe as sovereign debt woes assail national economies. Both acquired companies have Italian roots, but they have a clear international focus.

Glass for

Bruni Glass’ target markets are all Western economies, with a particular focus on North America, according to the AXA statement. In 2011, the business had a turnover of approximately €108 million. Almost 60 percent of its products were sold abroad. Limacorporate SpA, which had revenues of €117 million in 2011, generated 66 percent of this in markets outside Italy, AXA said in a separate statement.

Depending on the company, there are still opportunities for good investments in Italy, Nicolo Saidelli, a managing director and mid-market enterprise capital team leader for Italy at AXA Private Equity, told Private Equity International. “The business models of both Bruni and Limacorporate are perfectly suitable to be global players.”

The strategy for both companies is to increase their international activities. Saidelli said in a statement: “AXA Private Equity will work alongside Bruni as it identifies new markets to further expand its international presence. We will also support the group’s acquisition strategy as it continues to grow in the future.”

As well as expanding in Italy, Limocorporate SpA plans to develop its product sales in Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the UK. Additionally, it seeks to enter the US, Russia and India. “The company has enormous growth potential thanks to its ability to successfully enter new markets and its innovative product base,” Saidelli said in a separate statement. 

Many good Italian companies struggle to obtain capital from banks, and are therefore willing to bring in a financial investor to help them with their growth strategy, Saidelli said. This does not mean however that it is cheap to invest in these companies, he added. “In any case, prices for good companies are still in line with the rest of the market,” he said.

AXA and Bruni Glass were advised by Vitale & Associati, an independent financial adviser.