Blackstone in talks for Migros

ISTANBUL/LONDON (Reuters) – Croatian retailer Agrokor is in talks with private equity firm Blackstone with a view to bidding for Turkish supermarket Migros, sources familiar with the situation said yesterday. Blackstone Group declined to comment and a spokeswoman at Agrokor, Croatia’s biggest food group, said she could not confirm or deny the information. Bids for Turkey’s biggest retailer Migros, which is being sold by conglomerate Koc Holding, are due this week, sources have said. Koc has declined to comment on a deadline. Separate sources familiar with the situation said on Tuesday that private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co LP (KKR) and Bain Capital plan to make final bids while BC Partners planned to bid with Turkish private equity group Turkven. In September, Koc said that Russian private equity firm Alfa was interested in Migros – which has a market value of $3.1 billion and saw nine-month sales of $2.8 billion last year – but Alfa has not commented publicly since. Swedish retailer ICA and its parent Ahold declined to comment yesterday on reports that ICA would bid. Since Turkish conglomerate Sabanci Holding said it and French partner Carrefour had decided against bidding, shares in Migros have fallen 11 percent. By 1412 GMT the stock was trading at 20.20 lira a share, down 2.9 percent on the day and back at the same level at which it closed the session before Koc said it might sell the company. Analysts and bankers say Carrefour had been seen as the strongest, most aggressive bidder and there are concerns about whether a private equity company will want to buy a listed company when Turkish law does not allow minority shareholders to be squeezed out after a tender offering. Small amounts of Finansbank and Denizbank stock still trade in Istanbul despite tender offers by foreign banks which bought control. «I don’t think there’s a great deal of understanding about the motives of the other suggested bidders… although that doesn’t mean the other bidders aren’t going to be aggressive,» said Berna Kurbay, analyst at Raymond James. Migros stock rose 13 percent between Koc’s announcement it had appointed JP Morgan to look at options for Migros, on June 18, and the end of last year. «We think a strategic bid would value the company higher than where it’s trading at now,» Kurbay said.