Exclusive: Autogrill submitted a bid for Elior's Areas business - source

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's Autogrill AGL.MI has submitted a bid for the railways, motorway and airport catering business of France's Elior ELIOR.PA, a source told Reuters on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, a separate source told Reuters that Elior was seeking bids by the end of January for its Areas catering business.

The source added that around 10 private equity funds - including KKR, Lone Star and Blackstone - were considering making a bid.

On the other hand, Italian food producer and distributor Cremonini and French group Lagardere have both said they did not plan to table offers to buy Elior’s assets.

Analysts value Areas - which has core earnings of about 200 million euros - at 7.5 to 10 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) compared to 8 to 11 times for Autogrill or Britain's SSP Group Plc SSPG.L.

This means the deal could have a value of between 1.5 and 2 billion euros.

With 2017-18 revenue of 6.69 billion euros ($7.60 billion), Elior is well behind Britain's Compass CPG.L and French Sodexo EXHO.PA which each have revenues that are more than three times this.

Shares in Elior have more than halved from mid-2017 highs following several profit warnings and the firm’s market capitalization has fallen to below 2.5 billion euros.

The company’s return on equity, at 2.25 percent, is the lowest in the Thomson Reuters Europe Restaurant and Bars index. ($1 = 0.8802 euros)

Reporting by Paola Arosio, writing by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Keith Weir