The two Italian companies are merging into a new group, due to be called Officine Italiane, that will allow them to offer a complete range of snow and outdoor sports products and to generate synergies at various levels, including product development and international distribution.

The goal is to reach combined consolidated sales of €36 million by 2016, up from about €20 million at present, with an operating margin before depreciation and amortization (Ebitda) of 17 percent.

The sales networks in Italy and abroad will be boosted, and new sales subsidiaries will be created in foreign countries besides those that Vist already has in Switzerland and the U.S., possibly acquiring financial stakes in the companies run by some of the distributors as in the case of Switzerland.

Bailo and Vist have a similar turnover. While Bailo has been in the market for more than 50 years, concentrating on ski and outdoor apparel, the much younger Vist has been active since 1997, but it has been trying to reach better economies of scale in the apparel sector, which has come to represent two-thirds of its sales and where Bailo is stronger. While Bailo continues to source most of its clothing in China, it has rather sophisticated modeling and prototyping facilities that may be placed at Vist's disposal.

Vist started off as a producer of high-end ski plates, which were adopted by major ski brands, but it has been diversifying into ski bindings and high-end apparel, all of which is made in Italy and in other European countries. Vist is coming out next year with a more moderately priced ski binding.

With stable sales of about €10.6 million this year, Vist is only a little bigger than Bailo, and it has a stronger presence outside Italy. It is also more profitable, whereas Bailo has been slightly profitable only in the last three years.

The financial details of the transaction could not be learnt, but Elmar Stimpfl, co- founder of Vist, said that the shareholders of Bailo and his company will each have a 50 percent stake in the new venture.

Stimpfl, a former ski professional aged 38, will be running the new company as its chief executive, based in the region of South Tyrol. Located not far away, Bruno Zotta Bailo, the 72-year-old co-founder of the company bearing his name, will be the chairman.

While Bailo is entirely owned by the Bailo family, Stimpfl sold 49 percent of the shares in Vist three years ago to a private investor. Roberto Jorio Fili, a former top manager of Italy's Gruppo Finanziario Tessile and of Roberto Cavalli, will join the board of directors of the new company (more in SGI Europe).