Swire, the Asian conglomerate that owns the Cathay Pacific airline, is bidding for the French fashion brands Sandro and Maje that are being sold by L Capital, LVMH’s private equity unit.
Swire, a closely held group started in 1816 by John Swire as an import-export business in Liverpool, is among four shortlisted bidders, according to people with knowledge of the auction. The others that made it through the so-called second round of bidding – after submitting indicative offers – are the private equity groups KKR, Carlyle and Eurazeo.
The bids value the fashion company, which includes the Claudie Pierlot fashion brand, at more than €600m, or 10 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, they said.
Maje, a brand targeting wealthy urban teenagers, and Sandro, which targets young female executives, were started by sisters Judith Milgrom and Evelyne Chétrite. They still own 49 per cent of the group, after selling a 51 per cent stake in 2010 to L Capital and Florac, an investment company controlled by Marie-Jeanne Meyer, the former head of French trading company Louis Dreyfus.
The French fashion group has about 500 outlets, including in London, and is seeking to expand in the US and Asia. It posted sales of about €350m in 2012, according to its website.
L Capital, which is owned by LVMH, manages a €400m fund – including a significant commitment from Groupe Arnault – investing in brands in Europe and it has raised an Asian fund.
Hong Kong-listed Swire would help the brands open stores in China. The group owns a large property business in Hong Kong with upscale mixed-use developments centred around retail in Beijing and Guangzhou. It owns the sporting store chains Gigasports and Marathon, and the distribution rights in Hong Kong for apparel brands Rockport and Jockey.
The company has surprised rival hoteliers with the sophistication of the service and decor at its hotels in Beijing and Hong Kong, which have been very popular with travellers.
There is a tradition of Hong Kong companies owning European fashion brands. Trinity bought Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes as well as Kent & Curwen; Dickson Poon owns Harvey Nichols; and YGM Trading, partly owned by the Fung family, bought the British trenchcoat maker Aquascutum last year. The Fung Brand owns French designer Sonia Rykiel.
Carlyle has invested in Moncler, the Italian designer of luxury ski jackets. It sold a 45 per cent stake to Eurazeo in 2011.
Swire, Carlyle, KKR, Eurazeo and L Capital all declined to comment.
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