(Adds detail, background, analyst comment, share prices)
By Silke Koltrowitz
ZURICH, March 13 (Reuters) - Luxury goods group Richemont is in exclusive talks to sell its underperforming French Lancel leather brand to Italian high-end briefcase maker Piquadro, to put its struggling fashion and accessories business back on track.
Piquadro said it expected the acquisition of Lancel to be completed in the first half of 2018, subject to due diligence and a final agreement. Richemont, better known for Cartier jewellery and IWC watches, declined to comment.
Switzerland-based Richemont, which has reshuffled its management to address problems at its watch brands, failed to sell Lancel in 2013 and restructured it instead.
Its "Other" division, which also includes Montblanc pens, Alfred Dunhill clothing and Chloe handbags, represents around 17 percent of group sales and has been struggling for years with Dunhill and Lancel just recently returning to sales growth.
Analysts estimate Lancel sales at 130-150 million euros.
Exane BNP Parisbas' Luca Solca said he expected Lancel to post an annual loss of "at least 40 million euros" and added the divestment would be a small positive for Richemont.
Kepler Cheuvreux's Jon Cox said the business might be breaking even now after the most recent turnaround attempts, but he could not imagine a sales price multiple of more than one times sales.
"It is a positive in terms of a renewed sense of urgency at Richemont," Cox said, adding the focus would now shift to Dunhill even though it was now showing signs of stabilisation.
For Bologna-based Piquadro with its 76 million euros in annual sales and 99 boutiques, the acquisition of Lancel would represent a major step after it acquired Tuscan leather goods maker The Bridge at the end of 2016.
Shares in Piquadro were up 3.4 percent to 1.81 euros at 1330 GMT, while shares in Richemont were flat at 84.78 Swiss francs. (Additional reporting by Silvia Recchimuzzi in Gdynia and Giulia Segreti in Milan; editing by Jason Neely and Dasha Afanasieva)