June 16, 2017 / 1:34 PM / 6 months ago

China's Yida interested in Italian retailer Esselunga: adviser

MILAN (Reuters) - Yida International Investment group has presented an expression of interest to buy Esselunga, Italy’s fourth biggest supermarket chain, a lawyer representing the Chinese company said on Friday.

Esselunga, founded by late entrepreneur Bernardo Caprotti, is 70 percent owned by Caprotti’s second wife Giuliana and their daughter Marina. A source close to the situation told Reuters the pair had no intention to sell.

The rest of Esselunga is owned by Caprotti’s two children from his first marriage, Giuseppe and Violetta, who are locked in a legal dispute with the rest of the family over their father’s estate.

Paolo Pettinelli, a lawyer at the Pettinelli law firm which said they were acting as legal adviser to Yida International Investment Group, said the Chinese firm was interested in the whole supermarket chain and the unit that owns its real estate assets, subject to due diligence.

“A letter of intent has been put forward so that negotiations can start immediately based on concrete elements. We are waiting for an answer,” Pettinelli said.

He did not give financial details of the proposed bid, but Italian media have said the Chinese group had offered 7.5 billion euros ($8.4 billion). Yida international Investment did not answer phone calls on Friday.

Esselunga and its adviser Citi both declined to comment.

The source close to the situation said Giuliana and Marina Caprotti did not want to sell.

    Bernardo Caprotti had started talks shortly last year with at least four private equity funds - including Blackstone (BX.N), BC Partners and CVC Capital Partners - over a possible sale for up to 6 billion euros, partly because he did not want to leave the group to his squabbling children.

    The process was put on hold after his death in September 2016.

    Caprotti’s children from his first marriage, Giuseppe and Violetta, had fallen out with their father, taking legal action against him over ownership of the group.

    ($1 = 0.8953 euros)

    Reporting by Elisa Anzolin and Claudia Cristoferi, writing by Silvia Aloisi, editing by Valentina Za

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