* Majority stake in food chain Kudu for sale - sources
* More than 40 potential bidders were approached - sources
* Business valued at between 1-1.5 bln riyals - source
* HSBC advising on stake sale - sources
By David French and Dinesh Nair
DUBAI, June 19 (Reuters) - A majority stake in Saudi fast food chain Kudu has been put up for sale and private equity firm KKR is among the bidders, four banking and industry sources said on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia is the largest Gulf Arab economy and there has been increasing interest among international investors in the kingdom’s booming consumer sector.
Riyadh-based Kudu, which operates more than 200 restaurants in the kingdom, is owned by four individual shareholders, including chairman and chief executive Abdulmohsen Bin Abdulaziz Al Yahya, according to data from Zawya, a Thomson Reuters unit.
The company, founded in 1988, has grown rapidly in recent years and is expected to record a net income of nearly 100 million riyals ($26.7 million) this year, one of the sources said.
Based on a valuation of 10-15 times earnings, Kudu may be valued at between 1 billion riyals to 1.5 billion riyals, a second source said.
Kudu officials were not immediately available to comment. Several calls to the company’s Riyadh headquarters went unanswered. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as the information is not public.
The long-term outlook for the Saudi food and agriculture sector remains strong, with growth supported by a young and growing population and the expansion of firms into new segments, a June 19 report from Saudi-based NCB Capital said.
Coca-Cola Co paid $980 million in December 2011 for a 50 percent stake in Aujan Industries, one of the largest beverage companies in the Middle East.
Citigroup Inc’s venture capital arm and Dubai-based Levant Capital bought a $100 million controlling stake in Saudi Arabian supermarket chain Al-Raya For Foodstuff Co last year.
The sale of the Kudu stake was triggered by strategic differences between the shareholders, three of the sources said. About 30-40 percent of the company is owned by two brothers Abdulaziz Abdulrahman al-Modeimegh and Mohammed Abdulrahman al-Modeimegh, who are not selling their stake, the sources said.
“It’s a stable business now and valuations are expected to be high. The advisors have reached out to a wide number of parties and it will be interesting to see if the sale goes through,” said one of the sources, a senior Saudi-based private equity executive.
A bidding process for the stake has been initiated, with HSBC Holdings arranging the sale, all four sources said. The bank declined to comment.
The lender reached out to more than 40 interested parties for the stake sale, including private equity firms including KKR, Carlyle Group and strategic investors, said two of the sources, who are familiar with the plan.
KKR and Carlyle both declined to comment.
Washington-based Carlyle has decided not to bid for the stake, the Saudi-based source said. In 2011, Carlyle bought a 42 percent stake in a Saudi-based food franchise operator that runs Domino’s Pizza and Wendy’s restaurants in the Middle East and North Africa.