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Italian eyewear group Marcolin core profit up 26% as PAI seeks buyer

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's Marcolin on Tuesday reported a 26% jump in adjusted core profit for 2023, as its main shareholder works with an adviser on selling the eyewear manufacturer.

Marcolin, which holds a permanent licence to produce Tom Ford-branded eyewear, said core profit totalled 78 million euros ($85 million) last year.

Sales at the private equity backed group rose 2% to 558 million euros, helped by a positive performance in Asia, it said in a statement.

Marcolin's main shareholder PAI Partners earlier this year hired Goldman Sachs to explore a merger or a sale.

The private equity firm, which bought Marcolin in 2012 and currently owns around 80% of the group, is looking for a valuation as high as 1.3 billion euros, the Financial Times reported earlier this month.

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The sale process has drawn interest from big players such as Gucci-owner Kering and Ray-Ban parent EssilorLuxottica, but it has not made significant progress so far, two sources close to the matter told Reuters.

Kering is currently wrestling with a slowdown in Asian sales that has hit its star label Gucci.

One stumbling block in talks with potential bidders is the asking price, which is considered too high, the sources said.

The Tom Ford licence is widely considered the most valuable asset in Marcolin's portfolio, which also includes licenses such as Max Mara, Zegna, Tod's and Adidas Originals. ($1 = 0.9211 euros)

(Reporting by Elisa Anzolin in Milan, Mimosa Spencer and Mathieu Rosemain in Paris; Editing by Keith Weir)