MILAN -- After some seven months of negotiations, Plaid Clothing Group PLC appears set to reach a final deal for the acquisition of GFT SpA -- perhaps even as soon as Thursday.

Sources familiar with the talks said after meetings here Monday that barring any unexpected, last-minute developments -- and there have been many in GFT's tumultuous, 20-month search for a buyer -- the talks are expected to wind up with a marathon meeting

Thursday at the headquarters of Milan merchant bank Mediobanca.

Mediobanca has been masterminding the financial restructuring of the troubled maker of designer label apparel.

Sessions at Mediobanca are set for both Wednesday and Thursday, to give Plaid officials, including chairman Omar Al Askari, representatives of GFT's Italian creditor banks and Mediobanca directors, along with teams of lawyers, the opportunity to hammer out final details of the accord.

"As long as there are no strange maneuvers by Mediobanca or Plaid doesn't do anything stupid, Plaid is going to close this deal," said one source.

The sources noted that Plaid has managed to overcome the standstill hit in July when its first formal offer, based on a leveraged financing package, was rejected by Mediobanca and GFT for not being entirely in compliance with Italian financial regulations.

Plaid has since restructured its financing package, the sources said, with only a small amount still to be guaranteed. One source put this amount at about $12.8 million (120 billion lire).

As reported, Plaid has agreed to pay $249.1 million (390 billion lire) at current exchange for GFT and is reportedly supported in its bid by Transamerican, Prudential Securities and Rabobank.

Despite the optimism being expressed privately here by people on all sides of this epic negotiation that the deal is in the bag, some sources point out that the final closing -- or consummation of the acquisition -- could still be some time away, given the mountain of technical details that still need to be worked out.

"By now all the main points have been agreed upon. It's just a matter of working out the fine points," said one source.

For example, GFT's larger creditor banks are reportedly pushing for a single agreement between GFT's 26 creditor banks and the manufacturer's many operating companies in order to cut down on the sheer mass of paperwork that is involved in closing such a deal.

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