MILAN — It seems IT Holding is thinking about going private.

According to industry sources, Milan-based private equity fund Clessidra SGR SpA has been sounding out the Italian fashion group about acquiring a majority stake and delisting the company.

The discussions have not included high-end ready-to-wear brand Malo, which Clessidra would seek to sell, sources said.

Other suitors are also thought to be interested in IT Holding, which owns the Gianfranco Ferré, Malo and Extè brands and operates under license the Just Cavalli and C’N’C Costume National and Galliano labels.

Speculation has been mounting over IT Holding’s future, given the firm’s close ties with Roberto Cavalli’s label, which is mulling offers, and IT Holding’s slumping share price.

IT Holding issued a statement last week in which its majority shareholder, PA Investments SA, denied it had received “any communications regarding intentions to purchase stakes in” the Italian fashion group.

A Clessidra spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.

The Just Cavalli license, which IT Holding took on in 1999, is believed to generate around one-third of IT Holding’s turnover and expires in 2010.

Cavalli is weighing offers from a dozen or so private equity suitors, who submitted nonbinding bids ahead of last week’s deadline. The asking price is about 1.4 billion euros, or $2.18 billion at current exchange.

IT Holding’s stock has lost more than half its value in the past six months, mainly due to concerns over its level of debt, which, as of March 31, stood at about 340 million euros, or $529 million.

Last week, IT Holding reported a 13.1 percent drop in first-quarter earnings to 5.3 million euros, or $7.9 million at average exchange. The firm has forecast stable revenues and profits for the first nine months of the year.

In 2007, the company generated net profits of 4.8 million euros, or $6.6 million, on revenues of 635.9 million euros, or $871.7 million.

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