MBK, Goldman prep Homeplus bid

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MBK, Goldman prep Homeplus bid

MBK Partners plans to team with a Goldman Sachs Group private-equity fund to jointly bid for Tesco Plc’s South Korean business, which could fetch about $6 billion, people familiar with the matter said.

MBK, North Asia’s biggest independent buyout firm, and Goldman Sachs Principal Investment Area are preparing a binding offer for the Homeplus unit by the Aug. 17 deadline, according to people familiar with the matter. Affinity Equity Partners Ltd., Carlyle Group LP and KKR & Co. have also been invited to bid, the sources said, asking not to be named as the process is confidential.

Tesco, the United Kingdom’s biggest supermarket chain, may finalize an agreement with a winning group in early September, one of the sources said. Private-equity bidders are teaming up for the Homeplus purchase, as the acquisition would likely be too large for any one fund, people familiar with the matter said in June.

Hana Daetoo Securities, NH Investment & Securities, Shinhan Bank and Woori Bank are in talks to provide financing for the MBK consortium’s bid, two people said. Representatives for MBK, Goldman Sachs, Tesco, Hana Daetoo, NH Investment and Woori Bank declined to comment, while a spokesman for Shinhan Bank said he couldn’t immediately comment.

Tesco, which in April reported the biggest annual loss in its 96-year history, has been weighing divestitures as it seeks to plug a debt hole of about 21.7 billion pounds ($33.8 billion). CEO Dave Lewis is seeking to revive the company’s market-leading grocery business in the U.K., where sales are falling amid a price war fueled by the expansion of German discounters Aldi and Lidl.

The U.K. grocer entered the Korean market in 1999 under former CEO Terry Leahy, with a 130 million-pound investment into a joint venture with a Samsung Group affiliate. Tesco initially held an 81 percent stake, before buying Samsung out of the venture in stages.

Homeplus, which has 935 stores in South Korea, is the country’s third-largest discount store chain with a 25 percent market share, following E-Mart and Lotte Mart, according to a March regulatory filing from E-Mart.

South Korea’s discount store market has grown almost 50 percent to 46.6 trillion won ($39.8 billion) last year from 2009, Lotte Shopping Co. said in its annual report.

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