PARIS, April 4 Spanish perfume maker Puig is the front-runner to buy control of fashion brand Jean-Paul Gaultier after China's Li & Fung (0494.HK) walked away but Interparfums (IPAR.PA) is still in the race, fashion and banking sources said.
Jean-Paul Gaultier, one of the long-standing stars of French fashion alongside Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, still controls his company through a 55 percent stake and is looking to sell part of his holding to develop his brand in Asia, the sources added.
French luxury group Hermes HMRS.PA on Friday said it was looking to sell its 45 percent stake in Jean-Paul Gaultier and was in talks with several parties to sell its holding.
China's Li & Fung, whose private equity arm bought French shoemaker Robert Clergerie last week and Italian brand Cerruti in December, looked at Gaultier "very closely and seriously" several weeks ago, a source with first-hand knowledge of the matter said.
"They were interested but they are no longer now, not at this price," the source said adding that the sellers were seeking to get a valuation for Jean-Paul Gaultier of at least 100 million euros.
"The Chinese group has withdrawn (from the bidding)," a separate source said.
Jean-Paul Gaultier, which is still lossmaking, made revenues of 26 million euros in 2010, up from 23 million euros in 2009 and 13 million euros in 1998.
(Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis)