MILANO – The last episode has just been written: the family Farinetti took a step back from his creation, Eataly, which will have a new shareholder at the end of the transaction, the Investindustrial fund of Andrea Bonomi, at 52%, while the current shareholders (including Farinetti) will be 48%. For Investindustrial, the overall financial commitment has not been disclosed, but it could be in the order of 350 million.
It will be a new page in a story that began with the opening of the first store in Turin, inside of the former Carpano factoryin the 2007. An event at the time: Eataly Torino Lingotto was an absolute novelty, from the post-industrial location to the formula (half market, half extra-luxury boutique). On display, the excellence of Italian food, with a very refined and selective search for suppliers, often very small, even better if small and ultra-sophisticated.
But if the first years were of impetuous growth – and even more stellar expectations, even on the part of the founders – the task that awaits Investindustrial is not one of the simplest: to get a great project off the ground that is in many ways halfway through. It seems like a geological era has passed since 2017-2018, when the listing seemed imminent and valuations of up to three billion were running. At the time, more prudent investment banks had assumed an enterprice value (company value including debt) of two billion.
The projects for the listing
“Eataly will be the new Ferrari“, they said then; but Piazza Affari never arrived. Partly because the accounts were growing but not exploding – in 2017 the revenue it was 460 million, the year after 475 and in 2019 it was still 525 – while the EBITDA, the operating margin, often made the step of the shrimp: 39 million back in 2014, less than 30 the year after. Not to mention the 2021, when the turnover recovered 464 million, but the Ebitda corrected by the extraordinary items was 14.4 million. In between, Covid, which had brought the “adjusted” operating margin to -14.6 million. But Covid is a story unto itself, for a group of retail sales and restaurants the two-year period of the pandemic is a sort of black hole.
The non-listing, and in some ways the promise always kept halfway by Eataly, also has another aspect: the parable of a group that has focused a lot on growth, and therefore necessarily on the opening of new points of sale, necessarily expensive but not always lucky. In locations and dimensions. Moral: from year to year it was expected that the group had grown enough, even in profitability, moving the bar further.
The offices in Italy and the cost of rents
Some locations have not worked as expected since the experiment Fico in Bolognaalso in partnership with the Coop, to some smaller offices, together with the store in Japan (before the new opening in Tokyo) the failure to land in China, just to give a few examples, cannot be counted among the successes. Large shops, with large rents, where making a mistake (and not correcting mistakes in time, some add) can be expensive. “The business model works and abroad is often very well” explain the experts in the sector; but that’s not enough. This year expectations are definitely picking up, with an expected turnover of 600 million (and an Ebitda that according to market sources could be around 40 million).
A good encouragement for Investindustrial. The entry of which is linked, in part, to the objective stated in the press release: to report the stores in the USA totally under the group, taking over that 40% which was still missing under the Italian Eataly hat, buying the minorities from Bastianich and the other partners in America. A goal that the group had set itself before the pandemic and then frozen precisely because of the health emergency.
Partners who sell
At this point, with a new partner with strong financial backs – Investindustrial – and shareholders, however determined, the race could start again. Among the many to be convinced there is Gianni Tamburi, who through Clubitaly (Tip and other shareholders, including Lavazza and Branca) joined in 2014 by paying 120 million to take over 20%. The only shareholder not to sell even in part, rather to buy a further stake in Eataly from the historical shareholders “on conditions that allow it to significantly lower the average book value”, explains the company in a press release. Maybe dusting off, in due course, too the listing process. “I strongly believe in the history of Eataly – confirms Giovanni Tamburi, founder and head of Tip – and for this reason we not only do not sell but we increase our share, with the hope of being able to accompany Eataly on the Stock Exchange, as we have done with many other companies “.