Is it time to go "crazy" for Italy?

The heir to the Diesel throne recently claimed young entrepreneurs should look outside of Italy, but TMF Group’s Italian MD Massimo Paolo Gentili begs to disagree.

When Stefano Rosso, co-CEO of Italian powerhouse Diesel, told Bloomberg last week that young entrepreneurs would be “crazy” to start a business in Italy at the moment, it certainly took many by surprise. While Italy has had its problems of late, its business outlook is improving considerably.

New Prime Minister Matteo Renzi staged a coup in his centre-left Democratic Party in February, ousting party rival Enrico Letta from the top job amid accusations that Letta was failing to push through reforms needed to revive the economy.

Since then, international markets have been positive about Italian business prospects. The news that Renzi was in charge saw Italian 10-year yields fall by almost 30 basis points within a week; Moody’s upgraded the outlook for the country’s creditworthiness at the same time, accelerating the fall in yields.

Buoyed by the shoots of recovery in the Eurozone, and by Renzi’s promises of reforms, Italy is emerging as one to watch. The country is changing for the better.

The fact the government has finally given endorsement to state-owned Finmeccanica’s decision to sell its loss-making unit Ansaldo Breda and its stake in rail signalling firm Ansaldo STS – a decision that had been delayed by two years and saw agencies cut the group’s net debt to junk – is seen as a positive sign for Renzi’s intentions. In fact, Russian oil company Rosneft has just agreed to buy a 50% stake in Pirelli & Cie SpA’s holding company – should we view this as a sign of confidence in the Italian markets?

But it’s not all rosy. Earlier this week Italy’s biggest bank, UniCredit, reported a huge loss just hours after the European Central Bank disclosed details of increased regulatory scrutiny for European financial institutions. Indeed, the Eurozone as a whole is still not out of danger. Caution must still be exercised.

While there are signs of recovery both in the Eurozone and in Italy itself, prices of transactions are still relatively low. Italy is in that unique position of standing on the edge of reform and recovery, but offering investors the right moment to seize on attractive prices. The Pirelli deal shows that Russia, at least, has an eye for a good deal.

Things are changing in Italy, and there is a feeling of new hope, but it’s still a tricky situation. To make the most of the opportunities on offer, you would be best advised to find a local partner who knows the Italian market inside out and can work with you from within the winds of change. With 25% of senior decision-makers at global organisations looking to move further into Europe in the next 12 months, the prospects in Italy are well worth investigating.

Massimo Paolo Gentili
Massimo Paolo  Gentili
Opinion
  Opinion

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