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Illycaffe to Sell Minority Stake to Rhone Capital

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 11/21/2020 Daniele Lepido and John Follain
Illy coffee is poured in New York. © Photographer: Monica Schipper/Getty Images Illy coffee is poured in New York.

(Bloomberg) --

Illycaffe SpA, one of Italy’s largest coffee roasters, agreed to sell a minority stake to New York-based Rhone Capital LLC in a bid to boost its U.S. market presence.

“It’s a strategic, non-financial deal that will allow Illycaffe to expand its business in the U.S. market more in the next years,” chairman Andrea Illy said in a phone interview on Saturday.

The company, known for high-end espresso sold in silver-and-red cans, is committed to a market-friendly generational shift, building a company with open capital and professional management, Illy said. Rhone Capital will remain as a minority shareholder in the future, Illy said.

He declined to comment on the value of the stake. The newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reported earlier that Rhone Capital is close to buying a stake of about 20%, without saying where it got the information.

The private equity firm would buy the stake from the Illy Group for about 200 million euros ($237 million), with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. serving as adviser, the newspaper said.

Illy, run by the family that founded the roaster in the city of Trieste in the 1930s, has been expanding its network of cafes on shopping streets and in museums, pushing it into a market dominated by Starbucks Corp. in the U.S. The company also has been expanding online sales. Illy had sales of 521 million euros in 2019 and operates in more than 140 countries.

Internet sales grew by double digits in 2019 compared with a year earlier in all main markets, including the U.S., according to a company statement.

Illycaffe was advised by Goldman Sachs International, Studio Sabelli Benazzo and by Studio Gattai, Minoli, Agostinelli and Partners, according to a statement by both parties. Rhône was advised by Credit Suisse, Chiomenti Studio Legale and Paolo Montironi.

(Updates with advisers in last paragraph.)

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