FRANKFURT, July 3 (Reuters) - German retailer Metro AG is no longer ruling out selling its stake in Media-Saturn Holding to the electronics chain’s founder Erich Kellerhals, a newspaper reported on Thursday, citing a senior Metro executive.
“If Mr Kellerhals were to present a good offer, Metro’s duty to exercise due diligence require us to examine it,” board member Pieter Haas - who is also acting CEO of Media-Saturn - was quoted as saying by German daily Die Welt.
Haas said Metro Chief Executive Olaf Koch “for this reason has requested several times (for Kellerhals) to submit concrete names of possible co-investors and valuation estimates”.
“But up to now Mr Kellerhals has not responded,” he said.
A spokesman for Metro denied speculation that the company is considering selling its stake.
Metro is majority owner of Media-Saturn chain, Europe’s biggest consumer electronics chain and the world’s second-biggest after Best Buy Co Inc. It has been fighting for years for control with Media-Saturn founder Kellerhals, who still owns a 22 percent stake.
The dispute has escalated in recent months, prompting the resignation of Media-Saturn CEO Horst Norberg.
Kellerhals, who has a personal fortune estimated at $4 billion, suggested in 2011 he wanted to buy back the chain, but Metro has always said it wanted to buy out Kellerhals, seeking complete control of the asset and freeing itself from any future arguments with its co-owner.
It repeated that offer in May.
Metro lifted its holding in Media-Saturn to 78 percent last year when it bought an extra 3 percent stake from co-founder Leopold Stiefel for about 230 million euros, valuing the whole company, which accounts for about a third of Metro’s sales, at more than 7 billion euros ($9.55 billion).
Media-Saturn is battling online competition and saw its sales fall 4 percent in its fiscal second quarter to 4.88 billion euros, prompting Metro to cut its full-year earnings forecast for the unit in May.
$1 = 0.7331 Euros Reporting by Marilyn Gerlach; Editing by Pravin Char