Oct 20, 2009
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Debt-laden Safilo agrees plan, new key shareholder

Oct 20, 2009

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

MILAN, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Italian eyewear maker Safilo (SFLG.MI) said Dutch shareholder Hal Investments would end up owning up to half the company under a 283 million euros ($424 million) recapitalisation plan.


The world's second-biggest maker of eyewear, which also unveiled falling third-quarter results, said the funds inflow would boost its capital structure and partly repay about 185 million euros in debt. Total debt is about 590 million euros.

After the statement on Monday 19 October, shares in the maker of Gucci and Dior sunglasses failed to set an opening price on Tuesday 20 October because they rose higher than 20 percent. But by 1047 GMT they were trading 14 percent higher at 71 euro cents.

Hal Investments, which holds 2 percent of the company, will have a stake of 37.23-49.99 percent, Safilo said.

Hal is the European investment subsidiary of Hal Holding NV, an investment company based in the Netherlands. Its investments include optical retail chain operators such as Pearle Europe and GrandVision.

Chairman Vittorio Tabacchi's family will reduce its 40 percent stake to 10 percent, a source close to the matter said.

Safilo, hit by falling sales in the downturn, said in July that talks with private equity funds collapsed.

The plan foresees Hal purchasing outstanding high-yield notes of 195 million euros as well as the restructuring of Safilo's senior debt facilities with its main financing banks.

The tender offer is conditional on Hal reaching an acceptance threshold equal to or higher than 60 percent.

Hal will buy Safilo stock for 13 million euros. This will be followed by a 250 million euro capital increase guaranteed by Hal, Banca IMI of Intesa Sanpaolo SpA (ISP.MI) and UniCredit SpA (CRDI.MI). Safilo will also sell non-core and loss-making retail chains in Spain, Australia and China to Hal for about 20 million euros. This would allow Safilo to concentrate on production and its licences while Hal would focus on distribution.

In a research note, Centrobanca said Safilo shares should benefit "from the welcome financial rescue plan". It estimated at the end of the plan, seen at the end of the first quarter 2010, Safilo would have net debt of 307 million euros.

"However, before having a long position in the restructuring story, we would wait for a business plan in order to understand, from a fundamental point of view, how the new major shareholder will intend to transform a company with a sound brand portfolio, in a cash cow machine with a decent profitability level."

Safilo also said third-quarter turnover was 213 million euros and core profit 3.5 million. That compared to revenues of 229 million euros and core profit of 16.7 million a year ago.

Orders for the first two weeks of October were 12.5 percent below that of the same period last year, it said.

The tender offer starts on Tuesday 20 October and ends on Nov. 19. (Additional reporting by Cristina Carlevaro; editing by Dan Lalor and Jon Loades-Carter) ($1 = 0.6678 euro)

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