SAfilo Expecting Buyout Offers

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s Safilo (SFLG.MI) expects to receive shortly offers from private equity funds interested in becoming shareholders in one of the world’s biggest eyewear makers.

Safilo, which works for many designer brands like Dior and Gucci, said on Friday it would present the offers to its board for an “in-depth” review.

Two sources close to the matter told Reuters on Thursday that one or more private equity funds would present offers on Friday.

Safilo’s main shareholder, Only 3T with a more than 39 percent stake, has been looking for new funding to strengthen the company’s capital base.

In April, Safilo Chief Executive Roberto Vedovotto said he hoped talks between Only 3T and four private equity funds would reach a conclusion by the end of June.

Newspapers have reported Apax, Bain Capital, CVC and PAI are in the running. One source close to the matter told Reuters last month two of the funds had dropped out, leaving only Bain Capital and Pai Partners to go ahead with talks.

In addition to its financial problems, Safilo has seen its sales fall amid the global economic crisis. It has shut down a plant in Italy, laid off workers and transferred some of its production to China.

At the end of March, its net debt reached 618 million euros, up from 570 million euros at the end of 2008.

Shares had been suspended for much of the day and were indicated up more than 13 percent at 0.472 at 1312 GMT.

(Editing by David Cowell)