Luxottica Billionaire Del Vecchio Says ‘Why Not’ to Grillo as Premier

Billionaire Del Vecchio Says ‘Why Not’ to Grillo as Premier

Billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio, the second-richest Italian, praised Beppe Grillo for taking a novel approach to public policy in Italy and said he could support the ex-comic as a prime minister.

“Grillo the premier, why not?” Del Vecchio told Italian newswire Ansa today in Milan. A spokeswoman for Del Vecchio’s Luxottica SpA (LUX) confirmed the comments and said the entrepreneur’s remarks were made off the cuff after he was approached by journalists on his way to lunch.

Grillo, 64, is at the center of negotiations over the formation of Italy’s next government after his upstart political party won more than 160 seats in the Feb. 24-25 general election. Grillo, who ran on a platform of anti-austerity and more robust social safety nets, is jockeying with established politicians like Pier Luigi Bersani and three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi for influence over the next administration.

“I don’t think Grillo is stupider than the ones we have had up to now,” Del Vecchio told Ansa. “I don’t mind the way he has of reasoning over ideas.”

Grillo has said he won’t accept a position in government because a manslaughter conviction in the 1980s, according to him, renders him unfit to serve. Grillo was convicted for his role in a single-car accident that killed two friends and their son. Grillo, the face of his party’s campaign, wasn’t on an electoral list and won’t enter parliament.

Del Vecchio has a net wealth of $15.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s index, placing the Luxottica founder 48th in the world in the ranking. Milan-based Luxottica, the world’s biggest eye-glasses maker, owns LensCrafters Inc. and has licensing agreements for brands including Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.

Michele Ferrero, the richest Italian, has a fortune of $24.2 billion based on his ownership the world’s fourth-largest chocolate maker and producer of Nutella. Berlusconi, a media magnate, has a wealth of $6.1 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Frye in Rome at afrye@bloomberg.net

Luxottica CEO Says 2013 Started Positively, Sees Acquisitions

Luxottica Group SpA, (LUX) the world’s largest maker of eyeglasses, got off to a “positive” start in 2013 and may make more acquisitions this year, Chief Executive Officer Andrea Guerra said in an interview.

The owner of the Ray-Ban and Oakley brands today reported fourth-quarter net income climbed 19 percent to 77 million euros ($101 million). Adjusted for one-time items, profit for the year rose 24 percent to 567 million euros, compared with the 565 million-euro median of 15 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“The start of 2013 has been particularly positive and March will be the same,” Guerra said in the interview. The Milan-based company is forecasting “double-digit” growth in the premium and luxury segments in 2013.

Luxottica has made acquisitions to speed its expansion. In November, the company agreed to buy Alain Mikli and created an atelier division that includes brands such as Oliver Peoples, Paul Smith, Alain Mikli and Starck Eyes. Luxottica is focusing on growth opportunities in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Thailand, Guerra said.

“Indonesia is a huge market that’s growing fast,” the CEO said. “Vietnam is a new option on our table.”

Luxottica’s emerging-market sales increased 26 percent in 2012. The company said it has witnessed a shift in demand for premium and luxury brands, especially in so-called “gateway and mega cities” and “high potential channels such as travel retail and department stores.”

Luxottica rose 3.6 percent to 35.56 euros in Milan trading today. The earnings were announced after markets closed.

Sunglass Hut

New sales channels are growing faster than traditional retail outlets, the company said. “Department stores, in particular, remain the primary point of reference for premium sunglass consumers and offer significant growth potential.”

The owner of the Sunglass Hut and LensCrafters chains will continue to invest by expanding the specialty businesses internationally in both the optical and sunglass segments.

Luxottica proposed a dividend of 58 euro cents a share, up from 49 cents last year, with a total payout of 273.5 million euros, equivalent to half of the company’s net income.

Regarding the euro’s rebound against the dollar this year, Guerra said he was more concerned about “volatility” than exchange rates. “A rate of $1.15 to $1.25 would be proper but we’re happy with $1.31.” The euro fell versus the dollar today after the Netherlands said its budget deficit will breach the European Union’s limit for this year and 2014. The currency weakened to $1.31 at 4:45 p.m. London time.

Luxottica shares have risen about 14 percent this year, the fourth-best performance in the benchmark FTSE Index and giving the company a market value of about 16.8 billion euros.

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Dan Liefgreen at dliefgreen@bloomberg.net

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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