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Sycamore Partners in talks to buy Talbots

Sycamore Partners, which made an unsolicited bid to buy Talbots Inc. last month, has signed a confidentiality agreement with the troubled Hingham retailer to talk about a possible transaction.

The agreement, signed on Friday, is the first official acknowledgement that Talbots is negotiating with the New York investment firm, which already owns nearly 10 percent of Talbots outstanding stock. In December, Sycamore offered to purchase the remaining shares at $3 a piece - a significant premium above the $1.56 price on Dec. 6, the day the proposal was made.

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As part of the confidentiality agreement, Sycamore has promised not to buy any more stock for a year. Sycamore disclosed that it met with Talbots executives late last year but the company had then rebuffed efforts to conduct negotiations. Talbots officials have said Sycamore’s initial bid significantly undervalues the company.

Nonetheless, Talbots decided to explore strategic options, including a possible sale, in late December, after rejecting Sycamore’s initial bid.

Sycamore is reportedly one of several private equity firms eyeing the classic clothier which has unsuccessfully attempted a turnaround over the past several years and is currently seeking a new chief executive.

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