June 14, 2017 / 1:17 PM / 4 months ago

Owners of French luggage firm Delsey call off auction - sources

LONDON, June 14 (Reuters) - An auction for the French luggage brand Delsey has been called off by its private equity owners after failing to generate high enough bids from a handful of international suitors, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Argan Capital and Partners Group Holding hired Lazard last year to cash out of the business, sources said.

Delsey, which was valued at around 200 million euros ($224 million), drew interest from Bahrain-based Investcorp and Chinese investment firm Primavera Capital, said the sources, who declined to be identified as the process is private.

Others interested in Delsey, which was launched in 1946 and competes with the likes of Rimowa and Samsonite, included CDH Investments from China and IHC from India, according to one of the sources.

Argan, Partners, Lazard, Investcop and CDH declined to comment while Delsey, Primavera and IHC could not immediately be reached.

The sources said the main reason Delsey’s owners pulled the plug was a gap in valuation for the company, which has 25 million euros of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA).

Private equity firms face a challenge in deploying the record sums of cash they have raised at a time when sellers’ expectations are boosted by high market valuations. For example, Samsonite and handbag maker Coach, which are much bigger than Delsey, both trade at around 20 times earnings, according to Reuters data.

Last week, private equity firms, including Investindustrial, CVC and CCMP lost out on Body Shop, a unit of French cosmetics giant L‘Oreal, to Brazil’s Natura Cosmeticos , sources said, citing pricing challenges. Natura agreed to pay $1.1 billion for the retailer.

Globally, private equity firms are sitting on $911.4 billion, having raised $205.5 billion in funds so far this year, according to market data provider Preqin, which said that if the current pace of fundraising continues, 2017 will match the pre-crisis level of 2007, the highest year ever.

Argan, whose other investments include Swedish healthcare firm Humana and Polish juice maker Hortex, took control of Delsey in 2007.

$1 = 0.8917 euros Additional reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong, Matthew Miller in Beijing and Devidutta Tripathy in Mumbai, editing by Louise Heavens

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