STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Acne Studios is up for sale, according to market reports, which indicate the Swedish label is working with Goldman Sachs to find a buyer. Acne co-founders Jonny Johansson and Mikael Schiller have reportedly been in conversation with the American investment bank for several months now and are likely to launch a formal sale process after the summer. Acne Studios declined to comment. Goldman Sachs could not be reached before time of publication.
According to market sources, Acne Studios currently generates over €200 million a year and is growing fast. Turnover doubled between 2013 and 2016. The company could fetch a valuation of €400 million to €500 million in an outright sale — and maybe more if there is competition from multiple bidders. This would imply a valuation multiple of 2 to 2.5 times revenue.
In a market with strong appetite for luxury M&A, Acne is certainly a prized target. What began in 1997 as a niche denim label became a trailblazer in the contemporary category, known for its distinct Scandinavian cool, designer feel and fashion-meets-streetwear sensibility. What’s more, the company has long been steered by a solid management team with strong instincts and financial discipline.
Importantly, Acne also resonates both in Asia and with millennials, two critical engines of growth. China in particular has been a success thus far and the company has ambitious plans for new stores in the country. Acne currently has 53 own-brand stores in 13 countries and over 600 wholesale accounts.
Acne also has plans for product category expansion. Today, the label offers a reasonably well-balanced product assortment, ranging from upscale ready-to-wear collections shown at Paris Fashion Week and a recently rebooted denim offering to logoed basics, bags, small leather goods and shoes, but Acne’s accessories business remains underdeveloped and the company has been slow to the sneaker game, a major growth opportunity given the brand’s positioning.
Even after a sale, the company’s founders intend to stay closely involved in the business, according to reports, adding to Acne’s allure.
But for Acne, what does the perfect buyer look like?
Back in 2013, Schiller said the label had met with private equity firms, as well as French luxury group Kering, which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga. “I met with Kering,” said Schiller at the time. “They are really nice people and, of course, it’s flattering, but we [would] have to be a fully-owned company by them, because that is the strategy, or a majority-owned [company] and then it becomes a totally different ball game. I think being in control is so important to us,” he continued, adding: “I mean we can never say never.”
Certainly, an offer from a major luxury group or family office would be an attractive option. But both the scale of the China opportunity and the abundance of cash-rich investors in the country make a sale to a Chinese private equity or strategic investor a more synergetic and likely outcome.