Spanish fashion retailer Cortefiel, targeting 2,000 global stores by 2012, is considering a stock market listing in the near to medium term, according to a senior IPO banker in Madrid.

However, a Cortefiel spokeswoman denied any IPO plans. "We are not planning a listing. These are rumours that have been going on for a while," she told just-style.

The chain's private equity owner, MEP, is said to be mulling the flotation as the preferred exit strategy after buying Cortefiel for EUR1.4bn (US$2.2bn) in July 2005.

MEP is owned by European buy-out groups Permira, PAI and CVC which are keen to cash in their investment, the banker said.

"They [the owners] have cut costs, sold assets and improved the bottom line," the banker noted, adding that Cortefiel and IT travel group Amadeus are Spain's next IPO darlings.

Italian high-couture houses Prada and Salvatore Ferragamo also plan flotations this year though continual market volatility could to ruin the listings.

Cortefiel's IPO could be launched in late 2008 or early 2009 if global capital market conditions improve, the banker said.

Cortefiel's sales "are going very well," the banker pointed out, adding that recent divestments and factory realignments, including efforts to outsource production abroad, have boosted fortunes.

Owner of the eponymous Cortefiel chain and expansionist Springfield and Women's Secret banners, Cortefiel hopes to open 120 stores in Russia and the CIS markets in two years, up from 54 now.

The scheme is part of an effort to challenge cheap chic archrivals Zara and Mango which have taken global high streets by storm.

Cortefiel currently operates 1,436 shops, 70 of which are corners. Its new stores will be opened as a mixture of self-owned and franchised outlets.

By Ivan Castano-Freeman.