MILAN--Faced with a now-or-never ultimatum, the Plaid Clothing Group appears to have come up with what it takes to clinch its bid for designer label giant GFT SpA. According to sources involved in the talks, Plaid delivered a revised letter of agreement and a letter of credit to Mediobanca, the Milan merchant bank that has been masterminding the GFT sale, just before the Friday deadline Mediobanca set earlier this week. "All the final paperwork has been signed and given to Mediobanca," said one source familiar with the talks. "And all the big creditor banks have said yes. Now it's just a matter of getting all the other banks to sign," the source said, adding that a firm closing date has been set for the first week of November. "I cannot imagine any reason why all the banks wouldn't sign at this point," the source went on, explaining that there had been a lot of negotiating over the past few weeks, and last-minute adjustments had been made to satisfy various banks and lawyers for all the parties involved. None of the parties to the deal would comment on Plaid's negotiations Thursday. As reported, GFT's creditor banks apparently balked at Plaid's financing, which sources said resembled letters of intent rather than letters of commitment. Plaid had offered $249 million for control of GFT. Details of the new Plaid letters couldn't be obtained, however. The letters are to be presented to a full meeting of GFT's 22 creditor banks today, the sources said. Plaid has been negotiating to buy GFT, Italy's largest manufacturer of designer labels, since March, when it beat a bid from a rival, Mexican entrepreneur Fabio Covarubbias, and won exclusive rights to negotiate a deal for GFT. Plaid, primarily a men's wear maker with annual revenues of about $300 million, was--until recently--a relatively small and little-known player in the international apparel industry. With annual sales of some $900 million and a stable of the industry's top designers such as Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Claude Montana, Emanuel Ungaro and Valentino, GFT has muscle unmatched on the world marketplace. GFT has suffered financial difficulties in the last several years, but according to sources close to the Turin-based company, it closed in the black in the first half of 1994, after reporting a 1993 consolidated loss of $125 million (196 billion lire). Although earnings figures haven't been officially released, sources close to GFT said the company is now performing well.
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