Prada’s $2 billion initial public offering was approved last night at a meeting with Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) regulators. Sources tell Bloomberg that the Italian fashion house will go public on June 24, though that’s still a “tentative date.”

Prada isn’t the first latest luxury goods company to pursue a Hong Kong IPO. British shoe company Jimmy Choo is also exploring a stock sale, as is Coach. Last year, French cosmetics company L’Occitane’s IPO raised $708 million, with shares selling at $15.08, the top end of the marketing range. Today, the stock trades at $20.15. The appeal is spreading to other more mainstream consumer brands. American luggage giant Samsonite is currently pre-marketing  $1 billion IPO, with the hope of being listed by June. There are a few reasons why HKEx has become this season’s hottest accesorry.

Hong Kong’s IPO market is booming

The Wall Street Journal notes Hong Kong was “the world’s biggest IPO market last year, with US$57.7 billion raised from 87 listings.” An added bonus for European companies like L’Occitane and Prada and Jimmy Choo, as the Journal also notes, is that “Asia, particularly Hong Kong, trades at a premium to Europe.” If you’re still not convinced, the Chinese government is willing to prop up your IPO. A Bloomberg report on the L’Occitaine deal notes that “China Investment Corp., the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, agreed to buy $50 million worth of shares in the IPO.”

The markets in Europe still look sluggish

The New York Stock Exchange, meanwhile, raised $39.1 billion on 99 listings in 2010. Borsa Italiana, Milan’s stock exchange, which was in the running for the Prada IPO, has lost half its value in three years. The London Stock Exchange–which led the world in IPOs as recently as 2007–listed just 50 which raised $11 billion last year. The Guardian blames the “uncertain future of the euro and the sovereign debt crisis” for turning companies off going public in Europe

The China factor

“These companies,” explains Financial Times columnist Robert Cookson, “are choosing Hong Kong over the traditional capital-raising centres of London and New York in the belief that they can sell their shares at a premium and boost their brands in a region that has become the fastest growing market for luxury goods.” Reuters observes demand for luxury goods in China has “surged at double-digit rates in recent years as a new class of consumers snapped up jewellery from Tiffany & Co. , ties and scarves from Hermes and Louis Vuitton handbags.” It just makes sense to be close to the market that is slated to overtake the U.S. as the top market for consumer goods by the year 2020, says Business Network’s Lydia Dishman. “Prada’s no different from L’Occitane and others sniffing around the HK market,” she explains. “Everyone wants to clothe the rising middle class in China and other emerging Asian markets. So why not seek the home-field advantage to help fund opening stores?”


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