Italian clothing group Stefanel said on Thursday it will take up an option to buy 50 per cent of airport retailer Nuance Group for around $125.6 million.

The company said in a statement it will raise debt to pay for the stake and expects to complete the deal - which will more than triple its turnover - with SwissAir by the end of second quarter 2002.

"This operation is of extreme strategic importance for (our) growth," Stefanel said. "The particularly volatile cycle of the clothing sector should find airport retailing a stabilising factor given that it is extremely captive in nature, while its customers have an above-average purchasing power."