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Report: Metro begins sale of China business

German food retailer Metro AG has begun calling for bids for the sale of its China operations, Reuters reported March 19, citing people with direct knowledge of the matter.

According to the report, the deal could value the unit at between $1.5 billion and $3 billion.

Potential bidders include Suning Holdings Group Co. Ltd., Wumart Stores Inc., Yonghui Superstores Co. Ltd., as well as private equity firms Hillhouse Capital Management Ltd. and Bain Capital LP, the report said.

Sources reportedly told the news wire that the first round of non-binding bids could start by the second week of April, with Citigroup and JPMorgan acting as advisers to Metro.

A spokesperson for Metro told S&P Global Market Intelligence that it is discussing the further development of its China operations with potential partners, but declined to provide more details about the talks or the sale process.

Bain Capital declined to comment on the report, while the rest of the potential bidders and banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The development comes after it was reported in February that Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is in talks with Metro to acquire a stake in the Chinese unit. Bloomberg News previously reported that the German wholesaler plans to sell up to an 80% stake in its China business to a domestic bidder as part of its global restructuring.

The company is also in talks to sell its loss-making Real hypermarket chain.