ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Minnesota's commissioner of trade and economic development said Federated Department Stores Inc. will make an announcement Thursday about its Fingerhut subsidiary, which has been up for sale since mid-January.

Commissioner Rebecca Yanisch said Gov. Jesse Ventura told her that he had spoken with Federated Vice Chairman Ron Tysoe and was told Federated would make a public announcement about Fingerhut on Thursday.

``All we're really free to disclose at this point is there are very good, strong negotiations going on and we're very hopeful for a good outcome,'' Assistant Commissioner Kit Borgman said.

Federated officials did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Two Minnesota businessmen, Peter Lytle and Tom Petters, have expressed interest in Fingerhut. Lytle, a business turnaround specialist from Wayzata, was out of town and unavailable Wednesday evening, his wife said. Petters, owner of Petters Cos. and Redtag Inc. in Eden Prairie, also did not return a telephone message left at his home.

Federated, based in Cincinnati, announced on Jan. 16 that it would shut down Minnetonka-based Fingerhut unless a buyer could be found. The company said it expected to raise $1.2 billion from selling Fingerhut's assets.

Fingerhut employs about 4,700 people in Minnesota _ including nearly 2,700 in St. Cloud, and another 1,300 in Tennessee.

In the nearly five weeks since the announcement, Federated has said 15 potential buyers have signed confidentiality agreements to gain access to the company's financial data. The company has acknowledged receiving only one offer and has not identified the potential buyer.