July 24 (Reuters) - CKE Inc, the restaurant group that operates the Carl's Jr and Hardees fast food chains, is exploring a potential sale after postponing its initial public offering last year, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The Apollo Global Management-backed company is working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc to run a sale process that is in the early stages and could value the company at more than $1.7 billion, two of the people said.
Apollo and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.
Carpinteria, California-based CKE was taken private by Apollo Management in a near-$700 million deal in 2010.
It intended to raise up to $213 million in an August 2012 IPO, but did not go ahead citing market conditions, and completed a $1 billion refinancing in April.
The company, which has more than 3,000 owned or franchised locations across 42 U.S. states and 25 countries, competes with fast-food companies such as McDonald's Corp and Burger King Worldwide Inc.
In the fiscal year ended January 2013, CKE was expected to generate earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $218 million to $219 million.
Some restaurant stocks have fallen recently following lackluster earnings and fears the U.S. economy has slowed.
McDonalds reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit and said it expects global same-restaurant sales in July to be relatively flat.
Panera Bread Co, one of the restaurant industry's top performing names, also reported quarterly profit that missed analysts' views and cut its full-year forecast. (Reporting by Olivia Oran, Soyoung Kim and Greg Roumeliotis in New York. Editing by Andre Grenon)