On 15 October, Italcer announced its acquisition of full ownership of Rondine Group. With this fourth acquisition - in the wake of its recent acquisitions of La Fabbrica Spa, Elios SpA and Devon&Devon SpA - 16 months since its formation, Italcer Group has joined the ranks of the Italian ceramic industry’s leading players, with revenues of almost 200 million euros and EBITDA of 35 million euros. Under the leadership of Lauro Giacobazzi, the company’s outgoing owner, and its Turkish shareholder Seramiksan, Rondine Group achieved solid results in terms of both growth and profit margins, and closed 2017 with revenues of approximately 110 million euros. We interviewed Graziano Verdi, CEO of Italcer Group, a subsidiary of Mandarin Capital Partners II (MCP), which is headed by Alberto Forchielli.

CWR: At the inauguration of the La Fabbrica showroom in the historic Palazzo Dal Monte Casoni in Imola, you announced that a major new transaction was in the pipeline: so the transaction in question was the acquisition of Rondine? GRAZIANO VERDI: Yes, the negotiations for the acquisition of Rondine Group had been going on for some time, but it’s always better to avoid commenting on these things publicly until the deal is actually in the bag. We’re now free to reveal that the “Italcer project” is going ahead at the expected pace and will lead to the creation of a cluster of medium-to-high-end ceramics manufacturers. These will all benefit from significant commercial and production synergies, in an industry which is still highly fragmented, despite its competitiveness at worldwide level. Alberto Forchielli and Lorenzo Stanca, the Managing Partners of MCP, often point out that larger groups can deal with competition more effectively, and invest more in the Research & Development that plays such a vital role in success on world markets. Personally, I’m increasingly convinced that the days of “small is beautiful” are numbered: the way forward is to focus on European markets, obviously, but also on America and the East, because that’s where demand is growing and that’s where we can really turn the Made in Italy label to account. CWR: How did you go about making the acquisition of Rondine? G. VERDI: We had recourse to a share capital increase underwritten by MCP, in conjunction with Capital Dynamics, a leading British alternative investment manager, which thus joins the shareholding structure alongside MCP itself, Idinvest of France, HQ Capital of Germany and a group of Italian entrepreneurial families. CWR: How do the product ranges of La Fabbrica, Elios Ceramica, Devon&Devon and Rondine Group complement one another? G. VERDI: The ability to innovate and develop products that continue to meet ever-changing needs is one of the common features of Italy’s top manufacturers, and it’s this feature that explains our leadership at the top end of the ceramic market. The companies we’ve acquired all have distinctive features that set them apart from each other and will enable the Group to establish itself as an elite force on the world stage, and boost the development of each member company.

The Florence-based company Devon&Devon is a world-class player in the bathroom furnishing market. It exports its products to over 80 countries through a network of boutiques, retailers and flagship stores in some of the world’s most prestigious capitals, from Europe to the USA, Russia, the Middle East, China and Australia. Our acquisition of Elios Ceramica, based in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, has brought us an ideal partner for La Fabbrica, because the two companies complement each other in terms of formats, positioning and the geographical areas they cover. It’s a strong, historic, well positioned brand that has all the necessary ingredients for a successful relaunch, including a production facility offering high levels of industrial efficiency. La Fabbrica, Italcer’s first acquisition, dating back to April 2017, is a specialist in the production of top-end ceramics, in the form of its AVA collections and the large-format porcelain tiles sold under the La Fabbrica brand. The addition of Rondine will consolidate the Group’s structure, and bring us a highly qualified team of managers. CWR: So Italcer has its sights firmly set on achieving its second objective, to generate revenues of 300 million euros by the end of 2019? G. VERDI: In the meantime, Italcer Group has already achieved its first objective. Now we’re looking at the potential of setting up an Industry 4.0 production facility in the United States in 2020: suffice it to say that tile consumption in the United States rose from 200 million sq.m to almost 300 million sq.m over a five-year period between 2012 and 2017. Local tile production in the USA has seen similarly strong growth, and rose to over 90 million sq.m in 2017, representing a year-on-year rise of 3%. With regard to our stock market flotation, we believe that Italcer, as a major player at the top end of Italy’s creative industries, still has plenty of growth potential for both its internal and external lines, which the stock market will recognise, value and finance. That’s why we’re planning to start the flotation process in the second half of 2019. It’s worth remembering that about 80% of Italcer’s revenues come from exports, and its brands are some of the most competitive and highest-performing in the industry. CWR: So everything is running to schedule then? G. VERDI: The Industrial Plan we announced at the beginning of 2017 is taking shape day by day in what we’re doing on the ground, including the quality of the acquisitions we’re making, and this latest acquisition of Rondine Group confirms Italcer’s focus on the top end of the market and on the Made in Italy label. As we move forward, we still have our eye on the possibility of making other major new acquisitions.              


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