Italian fashion company Salvatore Ferragamo plans an initial public offering (IPO) in late 2008 to finance growth.

Florence-based Ferragamo is well-known for making elegant shoes, handbags and leather goods. It has a presence in 60 countries.

Its decision to list comes as a string of Italian fashion companies - most notably Prada and Versace - plan to float in coming months, mainly to raise funds to expand in the booming Asian markets.

A Ferragamo spokesman confirmed the IPO plans but would not comment further.

Ferragamo's chief executive Michele Norsa told a Venice luxury-goods summit this week that the firm is working to improve its financial reporting and management operations to woo investors to the offer.

Industry observers say the time is ripe for fashion company flotations as surging consumer demand for high-end fashion and luxury goods is expected to boost
their coffers in coming years.

Even though an IPO is expected to shake up the family-ownership structure of many fashion companies, Ferragamo's founding family is expected to retain control of the enterprise after the listing.

By Ivan Castano.