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Reports: Li Ka-Shing's ParknShop Supermarket Chain Gets At Least 8 Initial Bids

Hong Kong-based ParknShop supermarket chain has received at least eight bids as the deadline for submitting initial bids expired on Friday, according to media reports on Sunday. The chain is owned by billionaire Li Ka-shing's Hong Kong-based multinational conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (HUWHY.PK,HUWHF.PK).

Hutchison Whampoa is said to be looking for bids between HK$25 billion and HK$30 billion or up to $4 billion for the supermarket chain. However, the initial bids are said to have come in the range of $2 billion to $4 billion or HK$15.6 billion to HK$31.2 billion.

The non-binding bids are said to have come in from regional retailers China Resources Enterprise Ltd., Korea's Lotte Group and Japan's Aeon Co. as well as global private-equity firms TPG Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR: Quote). The bids have also reportedly come in from Australian retail chains Woolworths Ltd. (WOLWF,WOW.AX) and Wesfarmers Ltd. (WFAFY,WES.AX).

US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT: Quote), Thailand's CP Group and mainland China's Sun Art Retail were among the other suitors, but there is no confirmation on who has made preliminary offers.

Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS: Quote) and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are advising Hutchison Whampoa on the proposed sale of the supermarket chain.

The company will now begin reviewing the bids, and is expected to shortlist a few of then for their final bids and discussions.

Supermarket chain ParknShop is Hong Kong's largest online grocery store offering over 9000 products, with speedy delivery service at the time convenient to the customer. ParknShop entered the China market in 1984 with a store in Shenzhen.

ParknShop is a member of the A.S. Watson Group (ASW), a wholly owned subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa. Since 1828, ASW has evolved into an international retail and manufacturing business with operations in 33 markets worldwide.

A.S. Watson is internationally known as a giant in the health and beauty sector. A.S. Watson's health and beauty chains were responsible for more than 80 per cent of the company's operating profit. ParknShop, along with its other retail businesses, contributed just 18 percent.

ParknShop controls over 35 percent of Hong Kong's market share with a total of about 345 stores, generating revenues of HK$21.7 billion or $2.8 billion in 2012. It has significant market position in Macau and South China.

Hutchison Whampoa confirmed on July 20 that A S Watson is conducting a strategic review of its supermarket retail business operating under the head brand name ParknShop to optimize value for shareholders.

However, Hutchison Whampoa also recently confirmed that the group has no intention of withdrawing from Hong Kong and market speculations are groundless.

A S Watson has not set a definite timetable for completion of its review and there can be no assurances that the process will result in any transaction being announced or completed.

by RTT Staff Writer

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