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Neiman’s Bidding Nears End

The bidding on the Neiman Marcus Group is now expected to be done by Friday, and it seems the price tag will come in at the high end of estimates.

NEW YORK — The bidding on the Neiman Marcus Group is now expected to be done by Friday, and it seems the price tag will come in at the high end of estimates.

According to a financial source familiar with the bidding, would-be owners are expected to submit bids in the per-share range of $110 to $113, bringing the purchase price close to the $5.5 billion previously reported.

Bids were initially expected earlier this week. However, several parties involved are said to be in negotiations with Neiman’s bankers. Bids are now expected to come in on Friday.

The two front-runners are the partnerships of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Bain Capital Partners, and Thomas H. Lee Partners and The Blackstone Group.

The spokesmen for the private equity firms either could not be reached for comment or declined comment.

Meanwhile, Neiman’s is fielding offers for its credit card business, according to a story in The New York Times on Tuesday.

A financial source at a private investment firm said Tuesday that it makes sense to find a buyer for Neiman’s credit card business since a financial buyer — such as Citigroup or American Express — would be willing to pay more for the operation. A financial services firm, said the contact, would also place a higher value on the business than a private equity firm looking to buy Neiman Marcus in its entirety.

The sale of Neiman’s has garnered attention and speculation from several fronts. Over the past few weeks, there were rumblings that Vornado Realty Trust, the real estate investment trust, was interested in Neiman’s. Financial and investment sources thought the REIT would take an equity stake and join forces with KKR and Bain to make a play for Neiman’s.

Sources said this possibility had weight, given the recent play by the troika in its winning bid for Toys ‘R’ Us. Sources close to the Neiman negotiations, however, said this speculation was not true.

Still, shares of Neiman Marcus have been ticking up. It closed Tuesday at $98.29, up $1.69, in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Separately, the specialty retailer said Tuesday it was launching its new 2005 Wish Book as well as InCircle.com.

“Since its inception in 1984 as the first customer recognition program in the retail industry, InCircle has strived to provide the best of the luxury lifestyle to our most loyal clients. As we unveil this year’s program, we find the rewards offered to be broader and better than ever before. As an added benefit, we are delighted to offer our InCircle customers the ease and convenience of managing their point program online at incircle.com,” said Jeffrey Netzer, vice president, customer programs, in a statement.

The InCircle.com Web site features  details about the premiere customer recognition program, and includes the entire 2005 Wish Book, plus eExclusives and limited-time redemption offers only available online.

Customers with 750,000 points to redeem, for example, can choose the Canyon Ranch option, which includes spa treatment for four accompanied by a private consultation and beauty master class with cosmetics guru Bobbi Brown. Customers who have achieved the 2.5 million-point level might opt for a kitchen makeover, complete with a selection of all new Viking appliances and products, as well as in-home cooking lessons with chef and cookbook author, Waldy Malouf.