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Image: Ferrari

Exor N.V. appears to be doubling down in its previously stated attention on luxury and the Asian market, announcing on Wednesday that it is partnering with Hong Kong-headquartered World-Wide Investment Company Limited “to invest in medium-sized Italian companies focused on high-end consumer goods.” As first reported by Reuters, the new venture between the holding company of Italy’s Agnelli family – which maintains sizable stakes in Ferrari, Italian football club Juventus F.C., Italian media group GEDI Gruppo Editoriale, publisher Economist Group, and auto group Stellantis, among others – and World-Wide Investment Company Limited, which is “one of Hong Kong’s oldest family offices, will set up a 50-50 owned company called NUO S.p.A.” The new company will be headed up by NUO Capital chief executive Tommaso Paoli.

The newly-formed firm will initial permanent capital of €300 million ($364 million), “contributed equally by its founders, including a 30 percent shareholding in Ludovico Martelli S.p.A.,” Exor and World-Wide Investment Company Limited said in a joint statement on Wednesday, noting that “Fiesole-based Ludovico Martelli is a personal care products company known for its storied brands including Marvis, Sapone del Mugello, Valobra and Proraso.”

The partnership, which brings together “two multi-generational entrepreneurial families to invest in and support the global development of medium-sized Italian companies specializing in consumer goods excellence,” will see NUO “help its companies make their Italian expertise, creativity and authenticity available to global consumers, and especially in fast-growing Asian markets” not only by way of “capital but also support on how to achieve greater scale while continuing to nurture the culture and uniqueness that differentiate its companies.”

The news comes as Exor is in the midst of expanding its own portfolio, taking stakes in formerly Hermès-owned brand Shang Xia – which it says has a “clear ambition to create the first Chinese global luxury lifestyle brand” – and footwear purveyor Christian Louboutin, while also putting an increased focus on luxury offerings, which could ultimately enable it to rival the likes of established powerhouses, such as LVMH and Kering. In addition to its new acquisitions, Exor-owned Ferrari, for instance, unveiled a brand new Rocco Iannone-designed ready-to-wear collection in a runway show on its home turf in Maranello, Italy on Tuesday. And in the meantime, speculation continues to simmer about a potential deal between Exor and privately-held Italian fashion brand Giorgio Armani, as previously reported by TFL

Luxury and in particular, luxury for the Asian Pacific market, were among the points that Exor chairman and CEO John Elkann touched upon in his annual letter to shareholders in April, stating that “over the years, we have developed considerable knowledge about the luxury sector and our ownership of Ferrari has allowed us to understand better the art of building luxury brands.” 

Beyond that, Elkann, 45, cited the “strong economics and durability” for the luxury segment, which benefitted “from strong market growth [in 2020], particularly in China,” further alluding to the group’s increasing focus on Asia, noting that “Chinese consumers account for one third of luxury spending today, and that proportion is forecast to grow to almost half the total, with China becoming a roughly €95 billion market by 2025.” The grandson of the late Fiat founder Gianni Agnelli has garnered a reputation as being among the most successful young deal-makers thanks in large part to his role in the recent merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group and French automotive group PSA.

It has not yet been revealed what “medium size” companies that Exor and World-Wide Investment Company Limited intend to target by way of NUO. Although, the companies stated in their release that “Italy is rich in medium-sized enterprises with strong expertise, renowned creativity and brand authenticity in consumer goods and particularly in the high-end segments of the market.” And if Exor’s increasing attention on the luxury and fashion segments, and the new venture’s stated interest in “high-end consumers goods brands” is any indication, Italian entities in the fashion space are likely within its purview.