L Catterton, the private equity firm backed by luxury French fashion house LVMH, is starting to pull ahead in the bidding for iconic German sandal maker Birkenstock, people with knowledge of the matter said.Birkenstock’s owners are currently focusing on negotiations with L Catterton as they prefer the investment firm’s track record buying and expanding family-backed consumer brands, according to the people. They also see the potential to grow in Asia with L Catterton’s network in the region, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.L Catterton is competing with buyout firm CVC Capital Partners, which had approached Birkenstock earlier, the people said. The German firm’s family owners are seeking a valuation for the company of about €4 billion ($4.8 billion) to €4.5 billion including debt, the people said. L Catterton is conducting due diligence as it works to finalize its bid, according to the people.CVC has already made a firm offer for Birkenstock and remains interested in a deal, the people said. Birkenstock’s owners could pick a winner in the coming months, the people said.The situation is fluid, and there’s no certainty of a transaction, they said. Representatives for L Catterton, Birkenstock and CVC declined to comment.L Catterton was created in 2016 by combining U.S. investment firm Catterton with the private equity operations of LVMH and its billionaire founder Bernard Arnault. The firm now manages more than $22 billion of assets, according to its website. Its investments have included denim producer Pepe Jeans, workout gear brand Sweaty Betty, cosmetics firm Bliss and online retailer Everlane.Birkenstock is a nearly 250-year-old brand best known for its sandals that are popular with hippies and preppies alike. The style has spawned a range of luxury variants from labels including Celine and Givenchy, following a celebrity-powered bump in the 1990s and 2000s.The company sold 23.8 million pairs of shoes in the financial year through September 2019, which helped sales rise 11 percent to €721.5 million.By Aaron Kirchfeld.