Exclusive: Qatar Has Designs On Valentino

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Members of the Qatari royal family are in advanced talks to buy Valentino, the Italian dressmaker to some of the world's biggest celebrities, I can exclusively reveal.

The Emir of Qatar is close to finalising a deal to buy the Valentino fashion label from Permira, a London-based private equity firm, for about £550m, people close to the deal tell me.

They say it could be announced as soon as this week although they cautioned that the discussions could still falter.

If the takeover by Qatar's royal family (rather than by Qatar Holding or the Qatar Investment Authority, its sovereign wealth funds) does take place, the people close to the talks say that it will also acquire the M Missoni brand.

Permira acquired a controlling stake in the publicly-listed German company Hugo Boss (Xetra: 524550 - news) and 100 per cent of the Italian business Valentino Fashion Group in 2007 for about £2.5bn.

The combined group, held by an entity called Red & Black, has had a choppy time during the subsequent economic downturn, with many luxury goods producers struggling to maintain sales momentum.

Permira will continue to own Hugo Boss, people close to the firm say.

Valentino has won creative acclaim in recent months and its celebrity fans include the likes of the actresses Nicole Kidman and Scarlett Johansson.

Qatar has established a track record of buying so-called 'trophy assets' with its vast financial resources, including Harrods, the London department store, for £1.5bn in 2010.

Perella Weinberg Partners, an independent financial advisory firm, is understood to be working for the Qataris on the Valentino deal.

Permira declined to comment.