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    GNC on the Block; May Net $1 Billion

    PITTSBURGH - Numico NV, the Dutch food group parent of General Nutrition Centers here said today it is asking for informal bids from selected potential buyers to test what price it could expect from any sale.

    PITTSBURGH - Numico NV, the Dutch food group parent of General Nutrition Centers here said today it is asking for informal bids from selected potential buyers to test what price it could expect from any sale.

    According to published reports, Numico hopes to get as much as $1 billion from any GNC sale. It is believed that NBTY - owner of Nature's Bounty, GNC's main rival - and investment firms, including Thomas Lee Partners and J.W. Childs were potential bidders. NBTY has already submitted a bid for Rexall Sundown, another Numico subsidiary that is also on the block.

    However, Numico has made it clear that it has not yet taken a decision on whether to sell GNC, which operates around 5,000 stores, and is the largest U.S. food supplement chain. Numico's expansion in recent years has left it saddled with debt. It is seeking to refocus on its core business of clinical nutrition and baby food products.

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