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IT Holding: 'Not in Talks' for Sale

Italian fashion group IT Holding SpA on Thursday firmly denied it is considering selling a majority stake, despite rumors of private equity interest.

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MILAN — Italian fashion group IT Holding SpA on Thursday firmly denied it is considering selling a majority stake, despite rumors of private equity interest.

"It's not true at all," IT Holding chairman and chief executive officer Tonino Perna said in an interview.

As reported, according to industry sources, Milan-based private equity fund Clessidra SGR SpA had sounded out the Italian fashion group — which owns the Gianfranco Ferré, Malo and Exte brands and operates under license the Just Cavalli, C'N'C Costume National and Galliano labels — about acquiring a majority stake and delisting the company.

Clessidra was allegedly eyeing new management for IT Holding and was not interested in high-end, ready-to-wear brand Malo, which the private equity firm would seek to sell, sources said.

However, Perna said talk of that kind was the stuff of fantasy and "damaging the profile of [IT Holding]." He added, "Who is Clessidra?"

A spokesman for Clessidra declined to comment on the speculation.

IT Holding's parent company Gruppo Tonino Perna SpA also issued a statement underscoring the denial, following a request from Italian stock market regulator Consob.

In it, GTP said it "clarifies it is not in talks with either Clessidra or other investors about selling a controlling stake."

It was the second such statement in seven days, following mounting speculation over IT Holding's future, given the firm's close ties with Roberto Cavalli's label, which is mulling offers, and IT Holding's deflated share price.

Perna poured cold water on suggestions the Just Cavalli license — which expires in 2010 and is believed to generate around one-third of IT Holding's revenues — was under threat, saying he expected it to be "renewed automatically."

IT Holding's stock has lost more than half its value in the past six months, mainly due to concerns over its level of debt, which, as of March 31, stood at about 340 million euros, or $534 million at current exchange. The stock closed up 5.3 percent to 0.60 euros, or 94 cents, on Thursday.
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