The “Prada’s Hong Kong IPO” case study, co-authored by Denis Gromb, the Antin I.P. Chair Professor of Finance at HEC Paris, and Alberta Di Giuli, Associate Professor of Finance at ESCP Europe, has just received the 2018 Case Centre Award* in the Finance, Accounting and Control category. The case study ranks among the best-sellers on the platform for 2017.
Fifth time lucky?
The winning case study focuses on Prada, the Italian family-owned luxury goods and fashion powerhouse, and its decision on whether or not to go public on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2011. On the one hand, an IPO would facilitate future financing for both the firm and its owners and provide an immediate access to funds. As the first Western luxury listing in Hong Kong, Prada would also send a strong signal about its Asian ambitions and enhance brand awareness in Asia. On the other hand, however, the family would become accountable to new shareholders and enjoy less freedom of action.
Having already seen four previous attempts at an IPO listing thwarted by the post 9/11 market gloom and the 2008 global financial crisis, the company’s leaders were acutely aware that floating Prada’s shares on a stock exchange would be a transformational event for the company. Deciding whether, where, and when to list was therefore of key strategic importance. Would it be a case of fifth time lucky?
The Prada case allows instructors to cover different aspects of the decision and choose which ones to emphasize. Why does it want to go public? Why now? Why Hong Kong? What is the IPO process? What price should Prada expect at the IPO and what are the techniques with which the company will be valued?
For Denis Gromb, a familiar brand like Prada definitely helps capture the attention of students, but it also means they can contribute their own knowledge or experience of the company, its brands, and its products, to class discussions. In international classrooms like the ones at HEC Paris, a global brand can be a definite plus.
Finance and beyond
The Prada case also touches upon issues that go beyond finance - the dynamics of a large family business, the luxury and fashion sector, the sociology of luxury consumption, the importance of new markets, notably China, for Western luxury brands, and so on. Not only are these different dimensions relevant in themselves but they also help put the company’s financial decisions into perspective.
Denis Gromb underlines that corporate finance cannot be taught, let alone practiced, in thin air. Developing finance case studies with a rich business context really helps students to understand the basic drivers of the business such as products, customers, and strategy, before discussing suitable financial policies. Another key benefit is that they avoid thinking in silos and allow participants to build bridges across disciplines. Case studies also offer opportunities to explore different side issues depending on the interests and expertise of participants. The Prada case was written with all these ideas firmly in mind.
The authors wanted to have plenty of options and enough details to pick from to ensure that the case could be easily used in different ways, and adapted to different audiences - ranging from undergraduates to MBAs to executives. They also wrote an abridged version that works particularly well in training programs where participants have little preparation time or have to work on the case in teams during classroom sessions. They can then capitalize on the richness of the full case during the debriefing session.
I can teach the Prada case twice on the same day and have equally interesting but totally different classroom dynamics. It always generates lively discussions and it’s great to know that the case is being picked up by other schools too. The award is the icing on the cake.” — Denis Gromb, Antin I.P. Chair Professor of Finance at HEC Paris
* The Case Centre is an online platform that publishes case studies written by faculty from leading business schools worldwide, in all areas of management. Its mission is to advance the case study methodology and transform business education on a global scale.
Professor, HEC Paris