Agent Provacateur Maybe Up For Sale, But Whos Buying ?

High end Lingerie retailer Agent Provacateur could be up for sale soon. According to a report in the New York Times citing a source, London-based private equity firm 3i Group Plc has hired U.S. bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc to run a potentially competitive auction that's estimated to be at 200 million pounds ($337 million), including debt.

3i bought a majority stake in Agent Provocateur in November 2007 in a deal that valued the company at about 60 million pounds. The brand has been doing very well lately with a 37% sales increase over the last fiscal year largely due to the significant expansion of its network in the last three years under the leadership of Garry Hogart, chief executive since 1996. Today it has nearly 90 stores worldwide after opening eleven stores, including boutiques in Milan, Hong Kong, Sydney and Montreal, during the financial year 2012-13. The company had anounced plans to continue growing its international business as later this summer it will cut the ribbon on its 100th store. The U.S. is currently the brand's largest market and the U.K. is its second largest.

Earlier this year The annual report of the brand attested to the company’s continued success and appeal: “The directors continue to deliver a strategic growth plan for the expansion of the business both in the UK and internationally, with opportunities, to increase significantly the number of stores worldwide. While the global economic outlook still remains unsettled, particularly in Europe, the directors are satisfied that the business is in a very robust position to move forward.”

So the question that remains to be answered is why would "The World's Sexiest Lingerie Brand" want to sell off when it hasn't been known to have an woes? Last year, Neiman Marcus and Saks were sold in multibillion dollar transactions. Agent Provocateur is probably looking to follow suit in a similar fashion adding themselves to the short list of luxury retailers ready to sell their companies to investors who are always clamoring for the opportunity to take advantage of sales, as wealthy customers are still willing to spend despite economic setbacks. However, According to Bloomberg, 3i had declined to comment, while spokesmen for Agent Provocateur and Goldman did not respond.