KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait Food Co. (FOOD.KW) (Americana) is not aware of any potential stake sale by its majority shareholder, its chairman said on Sunday.
Sources told Reuters on Thursday that Kuwait’s billionaire al-Kharafi family was looking to sell Americana and had hired bankers to explore a deal.
“We don’t know anything about anything on this subject,” Americana Chairman Marzouk al-Kharafi told journalists on the sidelines of an annual general meeting in Kuwait.
“This subject is for shareholders,” he added.
Four sources familiar with the matter had told Reuters that there was no formal process underway, but the family was working with investment bank Rothschild to approach potential buyers including private equity groups and sovereign wealth funds in the region to explore their interest in the $3.6 billion group.
According to Thomson Reuters data, the Kharafi family holds 66.8 percent of Kuwait Food Company through its private investment company MAK (Mohammed Abdulmohsin al-Kharafi & Sons). It sells goods under the brand name Americana.
It trades on the Kuwait stock exchange and its $3.63 billion market capitalization makes it the biggest company on the Thomson Reuters MENA Cyclical Consumer Goods and Services Index. The group had sales of $3.1 billion in 2013 and profit of $179 million, according to its website.
Founded in 1964 in Kuwait, Americana is a publicly traded group of companies based in the Middle East and North Africa, with interests in restaurants and packaged food.
The company is a franchise operator of restaurants including KFC and Pizza Hut, owned by Yum Brands (YUM.N), and Red Lobster and Olive Garden, owned by Darden Restaurants (DRI.N). Americana also manufactures California Garden beans and Farm Frites frozen vegetables.
The Kharafi family is one of the most influential in the Gulf Arab region, with holdings across various sectors including construction, financials and telecoms.
Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Ahmed Hagagy; Editing by Yara Bayoumy, David French and David Evans