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BERLIN-The huge US private equity group Blackstone is among bidders for the German Kaufhof department store chain being offered by the Metro retail group, according to media reports. The portfolio comprises 141 stores and is said to have an offer by JP Morgan for between €2B and €3B.

None of the firms’ spokesmen confirmed the report after the Handelsblatt newspaper quoted sources in the Kaufhof executive advisory committee–which also includes union representatives. However, a Metro spokesman said the sales process is at an early stage and due diligence has not yet started.

Blackstone had been interested in Kaufhof when it was put up for sale originally in 2004, but subsequently cancelled by then-Chairman Hans-Joachim Körber. Insiders estimate the sale will partly depend on the success of the sale of insolvent competitor Karstadt, particularly if the latter is sold as a single package. This would signal greater competition in the segment – with the price put on Kaufhof regarded as high. Conversely, a break-up of Karstadt would provide a Kaufhof buyer with the option of adding to location gaps in its German presence. Kaufhof’s EBIT yield of 3.4% is seen reasonable, and improvable.

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