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PARIS (Reuters) - The administrator for cash-strapped fashion house Christian Lacroix called "serious" a joint bid by the designer himself and Italy's Borletti and Milan's La Rinascente department stores.
A rival offer by turnround firm Bernard Krief Consulting (BKC) was "insufficient," the couture company's administrator said on Monday. Two other bids were too low to be considered.
The Christian Lacroix company, which was once part of French luxury giant LVMH, now belongs to the Falic family, owners of U.S. retail group Duty Free Americas.
Borletti is the owner of France's Printemps stores.
"Several offers have been made," Regis Valliot, the court-appointed administrator told Reuters. "One of them coming from the Italian Borletti with Rinascente, and associated with the designer Christian Lacroix himself, is deemed serious."
Earlier on Monday, BKC said it had bid a "symbolic sum" for Christian Lacroix, a fashion house it considers part of France's cultural heritage.
KBC was contacted by Patrick Devedjian, France's minister in charge of the national fiscal recovery plan, to save the lossmaking couture business, which has been in administration for nearly two months.
The matter was also discussed by France's new culture minister Frederic Mitterand, nephew of the late socialist French president.
The company behind the designer, known for his baroque and embroidered dresses, has never made a profit in its 22 years of trading.
Earlier this month, Christian Lacroix stitched together a small couture show with the help of friends and dressmakers who worked for free and many observers feared it could be his last.
In 2008, the company made a loss of 10 million euros on revenues of 30 million euros, while orders for its 2009 women's ready-to-wear summer collection have been down 35 percent.
The Borletti group bought the Printemps department stores from PPR in 2006 and La Rinascente shops with Deutsche Bank, Pirelli and Investitori Associati in 2005.
BKC said it had made an offer to acquire Christian Lacroix debt-free and proposed to buy its commercial operations, haute couture activities and take on at least half of its 120 employees.
It said it hoped to raise its offer later to at least 100 staff as negotiations with court-appointed administrators were likely to last at least one month. The commercial court is expected to make a ruling in September.
"We have made an offer this morning before (the deadline of) 10am ... It is only symbolic really," Louis Petiet, head of Bernard Krief Consulting told Reuters. Asked if the offer consisted of a few million euros, he said: "not even."
"Our offer will be improved later," Petiet added.
BKC has said it aimed to increase Christian Lacroix's revenues fivefold within five years.
The investment firm acquired some 30 businesses in the past five years, including recently the car parts company Heuliez.
"During economic crises, there are many who hide under the carpet while the President of the French Republic talks of reindustrialising France. I listen to him," Petiet said, adding he saw himself as "an entrepreneur and a patriot."
(Additional reporting by Julien Ponthus and Laure Bretton)
Editing by Rupert Winchester and Marcel Michelson