MILAN — The majority shareholder in Italy’s Safilo Group SpA would be prepared to dilute its holding to obtain new financing for the debt-ridden group, which could lead to a delisting of the stock.

This story first appeared in the March 11, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Only 3T SpA, through which the Tabacchi family controls 39.9 percent of Safilo, said Tuesday it was looking at “various options to strengthen the capital structure of Only 3T and Safilo Group.”

“In the knowledge that the current economic and financial situation must be addressed with great determination and with a sense of responsibility such to ensure a path of sustained growth for Safilo Group, the Tabacchi family is willing, if necessary, to see its equity holding diluted,” Only 3T said. It added talks with “several” potential partners were continuing but that no agreement had been reached.

As reported, talks were understood to have stalled over control.

An Italian newspaper speculated Tuesday that the family could dilute its holding to 10 percent via a capital increase funded by private equity and that Pai Partners, Bain Capital LLC and CVC Capital Partners Ltd. were interested in taking a majority stake. That would likely trigger a compulsory tender offer and a possible delisting.

Safilo’s shares have been suspended on the Milan Bourse for excessive gains. At last count, the stock was trading at 0.35 euros, or 44 cents, giving the company a market capitalization of 100.5 million euros, or $127 million.

“Safilo definitely needs a cash injection of at least 200 to 250 million euros [$252.9 to $316.2 million],” Unicredit analyst Davide Mercati wrote in a note. “We suppose the new partner could afford to pay up to 0.90 euros [$1.14] per share and still generate attractive returns, but Safilo’s price weakness in the last few weeks clearly favors the buyer.”

Safilo, which has licenses with Giorgio Armani, Dior, Gucci and Valentino, among others, is under severe pressure due to debts of 570 million euros, or $720.9 million. Dollar figures are converted at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.