MILAN — After shopping around its sportswear division, Pepper Industries, for several months without tangible success, it now appears Fin.part is focusing on the sale of Frette, its luxury linens and loungewear company.A Fin.part spokesman said a host of buyers have contacted Frette, including the Bulgari-backed investment fund Opera."Nothing has been signed, but we’re in advanced talks with several buyers, including Opera," said the spokesman.Another possibility, according to the spokesman, would be for Fin.part to sell a stake in Frette.Sources, however, are contradictory on how advanced those talks are. A source close to Opera told WWD that the investment fund had contacted Frette as a matter of protocol."It’s part of their strategy to acquire Italian lifestyle companies, and with Frette up for sale, it was logical to make an inquiry," the source said, adding, however, that formal talks were not under way. It’s unclear what Fin.part is asking for Frette. In 2001, the brand generated $134.8 million in sales.As reported, Fin.part chief Gianluigi Facchini announced in April that the company would sell most of its assets in an attempt to reduce around $484 million in debt and to concentrate on building the Cerruti brand. All figures are converted from the dollar at current exchange rates.In the original plan, Facchini called first for the sale of Fin.part’s sportswear labels, which include Henry Cottons, Moncler and Marina Yachting. But he stipulated that the company would study other possibilities, such as the sale of Frette and footwear label Andrea Pfister, if Fin.part did not get the price it wanted for its sportswear unit.The company is said to be looking to garner about $187.5 million from the eventual sell-off of the sportswear unit, which generated $207.7 million or 48 percent of the group’s sales in 2001. But this is not a seller’s market and industry sources say Fin.part has had difficulty finding a buyer for the division. In May, Fin.part sold its sportswear label Best Co. to the brand’s distributor, Cisalfa, for $2.7 million. In a statement then, Fin.part said the sale was in line with its strategy to shed subsidiaries.With Fin.part soon to be so heavily concentrated on building Cerruti, rumors have surfaced that the group could seek a stock market listing for the brand. However, a Fin.part spokesman denied the talk, saying the group had no intention of taking Cerruti public."

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