UPDATE 2-Japan's Fast Retailing mulls buying J.Crew- source

Fri Feb 28, 2014 6:08pm EST

By Soyoung Kim

NEW YORK Feb 28 (Reuters) - Japan's Fast Retailing Co Ltd , parent of apparel chain Uniqlo, has expressed interest in buying J.Crew Group Inc from its private equity owners, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.

J.Crew, which was taken private by TPG Capital LP and Leonard Green & Partners LP for $2.8 billion in 2011, believes it should fetch at least $5 billion in any sale, the person added, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.

It was not yet clear whether the parties have held any serious discussions about a deal. There is takeover interest from other companies as well, the person added.

TPG and Leonard Green are in the early stage of exploring exit options for J.Crew, including an initial public offering, and have yet to make a decision on timing and avenue of its potential exit, other people familiar with the matter said.

Representatives for J.Crew did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Leonard Green and TPG declined to comment.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on Friday that J.Crew is in talks to sell itself to Fast Retailing for as much as $5 billion, citing a person familiar with the matter. The Japanese retailer approached J.Crew's management this week about potentially buying the company, the report added.

Discussions about a potential sale come as J.Crew is weighing a return to the stock markets as soon as this year. The retailer is working with Goldman Sachs Group as it mulls a stock market listing, the person familiar with the matter said.

Private equity firms have been looking to exit their portfolio investments through a public offering or an outright sale to another company, as equity markets rallied and debt financing conditions remained robust to allow for a large buyout.

Run by well-known executive Mickey Drexler, J.Crew is a multi-channel retailer of women's, men's and children's apparel, shoes and accessories. As of February, the company operates 330 retail stores, including 257 J.Crew retail stores, eight crewcuts stores and 65 Madewell stores, according to its website.

In the fiscal year ended Feb. 1, J.Crew's revenues increased 9 percent to more than $2.4 billion while adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization rose to as much as $371 million, compared to $360 million in the prior year.

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