Italian business: Brave old world

PAYING €1,000 ($1,374) for a down-filled jacket is a fashion statement of some magnitude. Paying 24 times 2012 earnings for the company that makes it is an even bigger one. Moncler’s shares were richly priced even by the standards of luxury-goods firms when they made their debut on the Italian Stock Exchange at €10.20 on December 16th. They closed on December 30th at €15.80, valuing the company at over €3.9 billion and making its boss and main shareholder, Remo Ruffini, a paper billionaire. It was Europe’s most successful initial public offering of 2013.

For a country that is supposed to be on the brink of economic collapse Italy has surprisingly busy capital markets. As chart 1 shows, more companies are issuing shares and bonds. Private-equity and venture-capital outfits are soliciting money again with an eye to Italian buy-outs. Analysts at banks, including Credit Suisse and HSBC, are urging investors to have a good look at Italian companies.The big family-owned manufacturers which once dominated Italy and thrived abroad—Fiat, Indesit, Benetton—have been in retreat. On January 1st Fiat said it would buy the 41.5% of Chrysler it does not already…

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