July 25, 2013 / 4:11 AM / 5 years ago

Aeon, China Resources eye bids for Li's Hong Kong supermarkets-sources

HONG KONG/SINGAPORE, July 25 (Reuters) - Japan’s Aeon Co Ltd and state-owned China Resources Enterprise Ltd are among the suitors considering bids for the Hong Kong supermarket business being sold by billionaire Li Ka-shing, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Li’s Hutchison Whampoa Ltd conglomerate has set an Aug. 16 deadline for initial bids for the business, with an asking price of up to $4 billion, said the people, who declined to be identified because the sale process is confidential.

The auction is generating interest from companies and private equity firms, lured by the opportunity to operate in a market that is dominated by two large players. Octogenarian Li is planning to sell the business to focus more on Hutchison’s health and beauty retail operations, which have a bigger global footprint and offer higher margins compared with the supermarket business, the people said.

Australian retailers Woolworths Ltd and Wesfarmers Ltd and China’s Sun Art Retail Group Ltd are among the other suitors evaluating bids, the people added.

China Resources, Sun Art and Wesfarmers declined to comment. Aeon and Woolworths were not available for immediate comment.

Hutchison declined to comment on the process. Last week, the company said it was conducting a strategic review of its supermarket retail business to optimise value for shareholders.

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