China's Fosun says sticking with Club Med bid partner

PARIS, June 27 Fri Jun 27, 2014 3:07am EDT

PARIS, June 27 (Reuters) - Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, which is courting resort operator Club Mediterannee together with French private equity firm Ardian, has ruled out changing partners despite a potential rival bid from Italian tycoon Andrea Bonomi.

Fosun's chairman, Guo Guangchang, told French daily Les Echos in an interview published on Friday that Fosun and Ardian's 557 million-euro ($757 million) offer made through their Gaillon Invest bid vehicle was "the best possible offer in terms of wealth creation" for Club Med.

"We are very satisfied with our partnership within Gaillon Invest and it's out of the question changing partners which form a perfect Franco-Chinese balance," Guangchang told the French newspaper.

"We fully intend to maintain the Gaillon project in the interest of all Club Med shareholders," he said, adding the support of Fosun was a "key asset" for Club Med's expansion plans in China.

Fosun, with a 9.96 percent stake, and Ardian, with 9.4 percent, have said their plan is to accelerate Club Med's shift to fast-growing China, which Club Med wants to make its second-biggest zone after France by 2015 to counter weaker growth in Europe.

French markets regulator AMF said last month it would not set a closing date for the Ardian-Fosun bid until Bonomi's private equity firm Investindustrial decided whether it would make a counter offer, giving it until June 30 to clarify its position.

The watchdog had asked for clarity on Bonomi's intentions towards Club Med after another one of his funds, Luxembourg-based Strategic Holdings, became the company's top shareholder last month with a stake of nearly 11 percent.

Club Med said earlier this month it had received an "expression of interest" from Investindustrial on a possible offer and had given the fund access to its financial data. But so far Bonomi has not said if he would bid.

Strategic Holdings built its holding amid shareholder resistance to the Fosun-Ardian offer, which at 17.50 euros per share is well below where Club Med shares have been trading. The shares closed trading on Thursday at 19 euros.

Bonomi is challenging the AMF's decision to set an end-June deadline for Investindustrial to make a rival bid for the resort operator, or be banned for six months from doing so and has filed a challenge with the Paris Court of appeal, with a decision slated for July 3. ($1= 0.7359 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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