A sale of Valentino Fashion Group could be just weeks away.

This story first appeared in the July 9, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Rome fashion house said over the weekend that a single party had been granted exclusive rights, which would expire this month, to negotiate an acquisition of the company.

Valentino, owned by the Permira private equity group, sidestepped comment on published reports that the royal family of Qatar is the designated party and ready to pay 550 million pounds, or about $852 million at current exchange, to acquire the venerable brand.

“As previously stated, Valentino has seen increasing interest from a number of potential buyers,” said Stefano Sassi, chief executive officer of Valentino. “The outstanding work and stylistic vision of creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli and the constant growth of [the] company’s results have generated great attention towards the brand.”

Permira took over the brand in 2007 and recent improvements in its operating performance have fueled talk of a possible sale, with Puig previously mentioned as a suitor. While acknowledging that private equity firms eventually sell the components of their portfolios, Sassi in February said it was “too early” for a transaction at that time. “Valentino is growing in acceleration and creating value for shareholders and it makes sense to continue to grow it, and the more it does, the more we get interested parties,” he said.

Although final full-year figures weren’t available, Sassi earlier projected earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for 2011 of between 20 million and 25 million euros, or $27.8 million and $34.7 million, up from 7.5 million euros, or $9.9 million, in 2010 and a EBITDA loss of 9.5 million euros, or $12.6 million, in 2009. Revenues for 2011, he said, rose 18 percent from prior-year levels to 322 million euros, or $447.5 million.

Dollar figures were converted at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.

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