MILAN Versace expects to finalize a shortlist for buyers interested in a minority stake in the Italian fashion house by mid-October and decide on a partner by the end of 2013, Chief Executive Gian Giacomo Ferraris said on Friday.
The fashion house, whose glittering gowns are worn by stars such as Lady Gaga and Madonna, is seeking to strengthen its balance sheet to help fund expansion in overseas markets such as Asia before a possible listing further down the road.
"The process is very disciplined," Ferraris said before its spring-summer 2014 fashion show, which included T-shirts with biker print logos, soft dresses with chain-mail details and vertiginously high platform sandals.
Ferraris added that Versace had started to look for a new investor a year ago.
When asked whether it was true the company was selling a 15-20 percent stake, as reported by Reuters, he said: "this is correct".
A source said last week that Versace was planning to sell a stake of up to 20 percent through a reserved capital increase in a deal that would value the group at more than 1.2 billion euros ($1.62 billion).
A listing of the group was foreseen in three to five years, Ferraris has previously said.
The family owned fashion house, founded in 1978 by the late Gianni Versace, hired banks Goldman Sachs and Intesa Sanpaolo's Banca IMI as advisers in May 2012.
The company is entirely controlled by the Versace family: Gianni Versace's sister Donatella has a 20 percent stake, her brother Santo has 30 percent while Donatella's daughter Allegra has the remaining 50 percent.
Last year Italian fashion brand Valentino was snapped up by Qatar's royal family in a deal that valued the company at 31.5 times 2011 core earnings. In 2012 Versace had core earnings of 44.5 million euros.
Italian luxury groups such as Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Missoni and Ermenegildo Zegna have been reluctant to sell and are still controlled by their founding families.
The strong performance of luxury brands has made them a target for cash-rich buyers seeking recognition as well as returns. ($1 = 0.7402 euros)
(Writing by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Anthony Barker)