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LONDON -- Private equity firms Blackstone Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and CVC Capital Partners said Friday that they're in the "preliminary stages" of assessing a possible bid for No. 3 U.K. supermarket operator J. Sainsbury here. If the deal goes through, it would be Europe's largest leveraged buyout.
The firms' announcement followed the Thursday disclosure that the Sainsbury family trust had sold 40 million shares, reducing its stake to 238 million, or 13.9 percent. The family holding has been held up as a potential barrier to a takeover.
After the news, Sainsbury's shares leaped 14 percent, resulting in a value of 8.7 billion pounds (USD $17.1 billion) for the company.
Recently, several private equity bidders have tried to acquire U.K. companies such as HMV, and were beaten back by shareholders demanding higher prices than the buyout firms were willing to pay.
Sainsbury will soon complete a three-year business reorganization plan that saw chief executive Justin King eliminate positions, close poorly performing locations, and streamline the supply chain, among other cost-cutting actions.