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Jones Group hires Citi to explore sale of company: sources

By Olivia Oran and Soyoung Kim

(Reuters) - Jones Group Inc , the fashion company that owns retail chains Nine West and Jones New York, has hired Citigroup to explore a potential sale of the company, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Jones Group, which has a market capitalization of $1.2 billion, is in the early stages of reaching out to private equity and industry players to gauge interest in buying the company as a whole or in pieces, the sources said.

Jones Group could not be reached for comment. Citigroup declined to comment. The sources declined to be named because the matter is not public.

Shares of Jones Group were up 7.1 percent at $15.69 in early afternoon trade.

In May, activist hedge fund firm Barington Capital Group's James Mitarotonda joined the board of Jones. Barington had urged Jones to focus on its shoe brands and to pare down its noncore fashion brands.

In April, Jones said it would close about 170 under-performing U.S. stores by mid-2014 and cut its workforce by about 8 percent as it tries to revive profits. Jones has been hurt by aggressive competition and has struggled over the last few years.

The company unsuccessfully explored a sale in 2006 with Goldman Sachs, two of the sources said.

DealReporter reported on Friday the company is in the early stages of exploring a sales process.

(Reporting by Olivia Oran and Soyoung Kim in New York; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Leslie Adler)

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