Eight bids received for Li Ka-shing's ParknShop
Supermarket chain ParknShop has received eight bids, sources said.
Li Ka-shing's ports-to-grocery conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, which has reportedly set a US$4 billion price tag for the retail chain, had asked for the bids to be submitted by yesterday, the sources said.
The company said in a statement yesterday that "AS Watson is still conducting a strategic review of its supermarket retail business ParknShop" and that the subsidiary "has not set a definite timetable for completion of its review, and the process may or may not result in a transaction being announced".
According to the sources, eight global retailers submitted their business plans and valuations of the supermarket chain.
The market buzz is that state-backed retailer China Resources Enterprise is interested, as is US major Wal-Mart Stores and Japan's retail giant Aeon.
However, a source close to China Resources Enterprise earlier told the South China Morning Post that it was not keen on ParknShop.
Leading Australian retailers Woolworths and Wesfarmers, and Thailand's CP Group as well as mainland China's Sun Art Retail are seen as other possible suitors.
A veteran private-equity investor at a US-based fund, which was invited to participate in the bidding process, said yesterday's deadline for bid submission was "extended" because of low valuations and fears of commercial viability in view of the high rents in the city.
"Most large international private equity firms have shown little interest in buying mature assets, given that sales growth potential in Hong Kong's retail market comes nowhere close to the industry benchmark annual return of 20 per cent," the investor said.
The margins of retail businesses have been largely flat, hovering at 4 per cent since 2007, according to US investment bank Morgan Stanley.
Last year, ParknShop generated HK$21.7 billion in sales from its 345 stores but net profit margin was lower than 6 per cent.
The potential sale of ParknShop has drawn considerable attention on worries Li, who has a reputation for cashing out of saturated businesses, is pulling out capital from his hometown.