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IT Holding Talks Go On

IT Holding SpA said late Thursday it had reached a nonbinding agreement with China’s Mensun Ltd.

MILAN — IT Holding SpA said late Thursday it had reached a nonbinding agreement with China’s Mensun Ltd., concerning “a possible disposal of assets” belonging to the Italian fashion group.

IT Holding, which owns the Gianfranco Ferré, Malo and Exte brands and operates under license the Just Cavalli, Costume National C’N’C and Galliano labels, also appointed turnaround specialist Pierantonio Nebuloni as chief executive officer, replacing Tonino Perna, who remains chairman.

“This change in the organization shows the ability of IT Holding to promptly adapt itself, introducing new skills and experience to manage new challenges generated by market changes,” the company said.

IT Holding did not disclose what assets it could sell to Mensun, although speculation increased Thursday that the deal centered on Ittierre SpA, the fashion group’s apparel manufacturing unit. Reportedly, Perna wants to sell Ittierre for at least 185 million euros, or $239.7 million, or the equivalent value of its bond, which expires in 2012. Mensun, meanwhile, is said to be interested in appointing Thierry Andretta, a former manager at Gucci Group and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, as Ittierre’s ceo.

Neither IT Holding nor Mensun could be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Last week, IT Holding said its board had given Perna “a wide mandate” to continue talks with Mensun on an exclusive basis through Dec. 31. In September, the Italian company said it was in negotiations regarding the possible sale of a minority stake in PA Investments SA, IT Holding’s parent company, and possible commercial and production agreements in the Asian market.

Nebuloni is a former ceo of Italian energy group ERG SpA, where he led the strategic and organizational transformation of the company from 1992 to 2003. In 2005, he cofounded Italian investment company Management & Capitali, focused on turnaround projects, leaving in 2007.

IT Holding is under intense pressure due to the size of its debt and a string of poor results. In November, the group forecast an 8 percent drop in full-year revenues and a lower profit margin, after a net loss of 10.1 million euros, or $15.4 million, in the first nine months of the year, compared with earnings of 6.6 million euros, or $8.9 million, in the same period in 2007.

Revenues through Sept. 30 fell 7 percent to 468 million euros, or $712.5 million, while earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation dropped 16 percent to 83.2 million euros, or $126.7 million.

Dollar figures were converted at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.

As of Sept. 30, following a reduction in working capital, IT Holding’s debt was 295.4 million euros, or $382.8 million, which includes the bond.