MILAN — Safilo has a new investor as it prepares for the race to gain Giorgio Armani’s eyewear license.

The Padova-based eyewear maker, which sources continue to point to as the front-runner for the Armani licenses, said in a statement Wednesday that Credit Suisse First Boston Private Equity has become a minority shareholder, investing $276.6 million. All figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

The privately held company also said it has completed the refinancing of debt incurred during its delisting in 2001.

"The refinancing concludes the family’s buyout and delisting and is also the starting point for [Safilo] to reach its ambitious objectives in terms of product excellence, client service and sustaining sales growth," Roberto Vedovotto, Safilo’s co-chief executive officer, said in a statement. "The collaboration with CSFB Private Equity is a remarkable opportunity for Safilo."

CSFB Private Equity, Sanpaolo IMI and Unicredit Banca Mobiliare, a unit of Unicredito Italiano, carried out the refinancing.

As reported, industry sources have repeatedly pointed to Safilo as the main contender for the lucrative Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani eyewear licenses. Armani announced last month that it had terminated its long-standing eyewear license with Luxottica, but has remained tight-lipped about its future eyewear strategy. Fellow Italian eyewear manufacturer De Rigo is also in the running.

Safilo produces eyewear under license for Gucci Group brands Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Stella McCartney and Gucci as well as for Burberry, Polo Ralph Lauren and Max Mara, among others. In 2001, Safilo reported sales of $865.6 million.

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