Jimmy Choo, Bally and Belstaff: Who will buy and for how much?

Jimmy Choo ss16 2So Jimmy Choo is up for sale. Well, that was a surprise as there doesn’t seem to be an obvious catalyst. Sales like this usually happen if the owners are throwing in the towel or if business is powering ahead and they see the potential for chasing in with massive profits.

Actually, it seems that the billionaire majority shareholder is throwing in the towel, not because the brand is failing but because it’s more interested in the coffee and doughnut shops it now owns. And that means its Bally and Belstaff investments are also likely to be up for sale soon too.

Back with Jimmy Choo, the share price has been rising sharply in the last 12 months. You could have snapped up a Jimmy Choo share for not much above 95p at one point last year but they’re currently changing hands for almost double that after an 11% rise Monday. I’m quite glad I bought some 12 months ago for £1.23 each (only a small amount – about enough to buy a Eurostar ticket on the profits if the price doesn’t go down again).

But that still doesn’t reduce the shock value of the sale announcement, as heavy coverage in the news media Monday proves.

So where do we go from here? A lot will hinge on the price, of course, but the betting is now wide open as to who might buy it. Will it be a luxury giant that already owns the biggest brands on the planet? An acquisition-hungry American accessories specialist (mentioning no names)?mA company from the Middle East funded by oil riches, or a Chinese conglomerate with more cash on hand than most Western firms could dream about? Or maybe it won’t happen – these things are never guaranteed, after all.

Jimmy Choo

Perceptions of its future potential will be the key factor. The company has had its ups and down in recent periods but has appeared to be on an upswing, even if its US market was tough. It seems to have been doing the right thing product-wise, growing its men’s and bags business outside of its core women’s shoes and upgrading its stores.

It’s hard to tell just how appealing this makes it. The share price rise in the last year takes the company’s valuation towards £700m, way below that of luxury peers like Burberry, but with plenty of potential if the business continues to be well run.

And it’s certainly been well run recently. I’m not its biggest fan – I loved its shoes when they were designed by Jimmy Choo himself but all those spindly heel and sparkly straps the width of cheese wire aren’t really to my taste. But lots of people disagree and its sales have risen in recent periods, very strongly on the surface at least. However, they’ve been skewed by currency effects and new stores/store refurbs. With all that factored-out, they rose less than 2% last year.

But the company is definitely growing fast in Asia and having not over-expanded in China like some luxury giants that should have known better, it still has plenty of growth potential there, rather than being forced to close very expensive stores.

Of course, with Bally and Belstaff also being available, some investors might look at Choo differently. Will they want to buy all three? Will a glut of luxury brands being for sale depress the price?

We just don’t know yet and with no offers having yet been received, we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Watch this space.

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