LONDON — Apax Partners, which owns 80 percent of Tommy Hilfiger Corp., reportedly has retained Credit Suisse and Citigroup to study a European float of the business, possibly in London.

Apax officials here and in New York did not return phone calls Wednesday, and Fred Gehring, chief executive officer of Hilfiger, was unreachable for comment about the report in The Daily Telegraph here.

Although original reports said the Hilfiger business could be valued up to $3 billion, including debt, the Telegraph said Wednesday the figure could be as high as $4 billion.

The reason for a possible European float, the paper said, is the business is focusing on the Continent for its future sales. As reported, Tommy Hilfiger inked an agreement last year with French footballer Thierry Henry for a men's capsule collection.

A flotation of Hilfiger was likely from the moment Apax bought the American fashion brand in May 2006, given private equity firms traditionally seek to sell or float a company within three to five years of buying it.

While a Hilfiger IPO in the near future would be sooner than that time frame, investors stressed that even though Apax might be asking banks to bid for the business, that doesn't mean an offering is imminent.

Indeed, London-based investors have said a listing could not realistically take place before six months, as time was needed to evaluate pitches, fix bankers' fees and prepare potential investors for a listing.

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