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Tue 16 Sep 2014 01:09 PM

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Bidders line up for Kuwait's Americana, Savola confirms adviser

Food firm says it has appointed JP Morgan to advise on potential deal for stake in Kuwait Food Co

Bidders line up for Kuwait's Americana, Savola confirms adviser

Up to three bidders could submit offers to buy a majority stake in Kuwait Food Co (Americana) ahead of a deadline for second-round bids in mid-October, sources aware of the matter told Reuters.

One of the bidders, Savola Group, said on Tuesday it had appointed JP Morgan to advise on a potential purchase of a stake in Americana, although the Saudi firm cautioned it had not yet signed any agreement to invest.

A joint bid from private equity giants KKR & Co and CVC Capital Partners is also expected, one of the sources said, while a bid from a third party could materialise.

The firm has been in focus since Reuters reported in April that the al-Kharafi family, the billionaire majority shareholder with 66.8 percent of the firm, had hired investment bank Rothschild to explore a possible sale.

In a filing to the Kuwaiti bourse on Tuesday, Americana - one of the Middle East's largest food firms - said the board and the executive management had no knowledge of any proposals to acquire the company and the firm had not received any offers.

Last month, the company denied any knowledge of talks with Savola on a possible acquisition. The Saudi group said a day later it had held preliminary negotiations with one of the largest Americana shareholders.

KKR and CVC declined to comment. Sources spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity as the information is not public.

Americana, with a market value of about $4.3 billion, is a franchise operator of restaurants including KFC and Pizza Hut, owned by Yum Brands, and Red Lobster and Olive Garden, owned by Darden Restaurants. It also makes food products such as frozen vegetables.

Bloomberg reported on Sunday that besides Savola and the joint KKR/CVC offers, TPG Capital Management may also bid for the business. The report said banks were lining up financing packages for bidders worth between $1 billion and $3 billion.

A source confirmed to Reuters that banks were working on providing loan financing to support bids, although he declined to provide further details.

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