KKR/CVC pick advisers in race for Kuwait’s Americana, say sources-Reuters

(Reuters) – KKR & Co and CVC Capital Partners have chosen Goldman Sachs and HSBC to advise them on their joint bid for a majority stake in Kuwait Food Co (Americana), sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The private equity firms are facing off against Saudi Arabia’s Savola Group as the only remaining bidders for control of one of the Gulf’s largest food firms. Second-round bids for the al-Kharafi family’s almost 67 percent stake were submitted on Oct. 10.

Americana, which has a market value of around $4 billion, said in a November 4 bourse filing that a major shareholder was in preliminary talks with “various parties” to sell its holding in the Kuwaiti firm.

But it said no agreement had been reached and did not name the groups in talks with Al Khair National for Stocks and Real Estate Co, an entity owned by the Kharafi family. The Kharafis are being advised by Rothschild over the sale.

KKR declined to comment. CVC couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The pace of progress has also been slow, the sources said, with some questioning the Kharafis’ desire to sell their stake.

Advisers Rothschild was supposed to respond to bidders within five days of the submission date, but it was at least 10 days before a response was provided, two banking sources said.

Three other sources pointed out a sale has unsuccessfully been attempted before. Americana is one of the family’s major assets, and the sources warned that could leave them holding out for an unrealistic target price.

“There are many who want to acquire this jewel,” Americana chairman Marzouq al-Kharafi told CNBC Arabiya on Tuesday. “But who has the price of this jewel?”

He said the board had not held talks or received calls with any bidders.

The need to meet the Kharafis’ price has already made life difficult for bankers. The sources said some buyout proposals placed too much debt with the Kuwaiti firm, proposing Western style leveraged deals that would likely fall foul of Kuwait’s regulator.

One banker added any winning bidder would also need to have cash available to back a mandatory tender offer to minority shareholders, which would follow if the 67 percent stake is sold.