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Buyout Firms Eye Moleskine Notebook Deal

(c) Sky News 2012

A pack of the world’s largest private equity firms is circling the Italian brand of upmarket notebooks modelled on those used by the novelist Ernest Hemingway.

I understand that investors including Blackstone (NYSE: BX - news) and Lion Capital are vying to buy Moleskine, a brand favoured by some of the world’s most revered writers and artists.

The business, which is majority-owned by Syntegra Capital, another buyout firm, could fetch a price tag of as much as 350m euros (£280m), according to bankers.

Syntegra has been working on a flotation of Moleskine on the Milan stock exchange and may still decide on pursuing that option.

However, Rothschild, the investment bank, has been working on an auction of the company, and a deadline for offers of later this month will be critical in determining whether Syntegra decides on a listing or sale of Moleskine.

Blackstone and Lion (Kuala Lumpur: 3581.KL - news) – both experienced owners of consumer brands – are understood to be interested in the international and product expansion opportunities that Moleskine’s owners are likely to explore in the next few years.

Other private equity firms including Bain Capital and KKR (Berlin: KR5.BE - news) are also said to have been looking at Moleskine.

The brand was established in 1997 by Maria Sebregondi, a teacher, who discovered that artists including Picasso and Van Gogh had used small black notebooks of the kind now produced by Moleskine.

Luxury goods companies including PPR (Milan: PP.MI - news) , LVMH (Madrid: LVM.MC - news) and Labelux, the owner of Jimmy Choo, have been sounded out about their interest in Moleskine, although it is unclear whether any are involved in the auction.

Moleskine products are sold in bookshops rather than stationers to reflect their upmarket positioning.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS - news) and UBS (NYSEArca: DJCI - news) are working on the prospective flotation of the company.

None of the potential bidders would comment.