MILAN Blackstone (BX.N), CCMP Capital and Investcorp INVB.BH are the remaining candidates in a bid to buy a stake in Italy's Versace, three sources close to the matter said on Monday.
The luxury goods group is selling a stake of about 20 percent ahead of a possible market listing in three to five years to raise funds to open more shops internationally and develop its clothing and accessories ranges.
The company is aiming to sell the stake in the first quarter of 2014, sources familiar with the matter said.
Versace has been considering bids from other potential buyers, which included Italy's state-backed fund FSI and private equity companies Ardian and Permira, sources familiar with the matter said. Private equity fund Clessidra said it was very interested in the stake.
The company is still owned by the family of late founder Gianni Versace. Gianni's brother, Santo, has a 30 percent stake, while his sister, Donatella, holds 20 percent and her daughter, Allegra, has the remaining 50 percent.
One of CCMP's senior advisers, Robert Singer, is among three board members at Versace who do not belong to the family.
Italian fashion companies that have opened up to outside investors or a stock market listing have profited from high market appetite for the luxury goods sector, which consultancy Bain & Co forecasts will grow by 6 percent next year.
Qatar's royal family bought fashion house Valentino from Permira for about 700 million euros ($961.1 million) in 2012.
Shares in luxury jacket maker Moncler gained more than 40 percent when about 31 percent of the company's shares made their Milan stock market debut on Monday, indicating a total value for the company of about 3.6 billion euros.
Blackstone and Investcorp declined to comment on Monday. CCMP could not be reached immediately for comment. ($1 = 0.7283 euros)
(Reporting by Massimo Gaia; Writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by David Goodman)