Italy's illycaffè marked a new step in its strategy to go beyond a family-owned business model by letting an external investor in for the first time in its 88-year history.
After reforming its governance and hiring external managers in recent years, the premium coffee maker completed the sale of a 20% stake to private equity firm Rhone Capital and does not exclude a bourse listing in the future, its chairman said.
"An IPO (initial public offering) is one of the options that we will consider in a matter of years," Andrea Illy told Reuters in an interview, adding his family would not relinquish control even in case of a stock market debut.
A bourse listing could be an exit strategy for the private equity firm in the future, he added.
Illycaffè, which produces a blend made of nine varieties of arabica beans, was established by Andrea Illy's grandfather Francesco and was 100% owned by the family's Illy Group holding company until now.
Rhone Capital, which was selected with the help of Goldman Sachs, will support illycaffè in speeding up its expansion abroad, in particular in the United States.
"We want to expand and our home country, Italy, is not growing quickly enough, so we need to increase our exposure to foreign markets," Andrea Illy said, adding the company would boost its digital footprint even more in a post-pandemic world.
The coronavirus crisis kept coffee drinkers away from bars and restaurants in Italy and abroad, Illy said, adding the group was able to compensate this fall with an increase in sales to customers having their cups at home.
"Illycaffè ended 2020 in the black," he said.
When vaccines will allow for outlets to reopen, Illy expects half of its coffee consumption to be at home, compared with just one-third before the pandemic.
Andrea Illy said he and his siblings Anna and Riccardo each now owned one-third of the Illy Group family holding company, after the three vetoed the sale of his brother Francesco's stake to private equity Peninsula and bought it from him instead.