Aggregation is not necessarily the only way for SMEs to grow

Aggregation is not necessarily the only way for SMEs to grow

No, the message is not “small is still beautiful”. Rather, Roberto Costa, head of global luxury and fashion investment banking at Citi, wants to make it clear that there is no single way to grow. Even in the current market scenario, a fashion SME can believe in a development path to be followed independently. To grow, “of course aggregations help”, he tells Il Sole 24 Ore, “just as finance can play a role”. But the opening of capital or the sale of the majority of the company “is one of the paths that fashion companies can take, not the only one”.

Late? Not so much

Costa wants, first of all, to clear the field of a cliché: the atavistic lateness of Italian companies. “In recent years, Italian high-end brands have made enormous progress”, he says, “aggregations where they were needed, they have grown in international markets, they have introduced second generations and even external managers”. It is also by virtue of this organisational strength that international groups, when they acquire local brands, leave production here. Of course, there is the issue of capital: “Yes, there is a lack of Italian capital, but we have fantastic companies capable of attracting foreign capital”.

It is not the only way

“I often read this criticism,” continues the Citi manager, “that Italian brands do not know how to make aggregations, but this is not the case: even the French have never made them, they have, if anything, made acquisitions”. Yes, because the acronym to define it is unique: M&A. But deals of a different nature end up in it: mergers, i.e. those between equal players, and acquisitions, where one entity annexes another. In any case, Costa is keen to reiterate that, for growing SMEs, these operations “are not necessary”. Quite the contrary, “I think the phase in which mergers or acquisitions were the obligatory path is over,” he concludes. “Italian brands can stand on their own two feet and grow”.

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