A new contender has emerged in the £650 million auction of tyre firm Kwik-Fit after a report linked a Japanese trading house to a possible bid.
Marubeni, which distributes Yokohama tyres in Europe and has a network of 24 car showrooms in Britain, is believed to have transferred its interest to Kwik-Fit after previously eyeing the purchase of Micheldever, a tyre wholesaler.
The report in the Sunday Times comes a month after Kwik-Fit’s French private equity owner PAI appointed Credit Suisse to lead a sale following offers for the business. Other potential bidders are thought to include Bridgestone and Michelin, which owns ATS Euromaster, a rival tyre chain.
PAI paid £800 million for the chain in 2005 and realised £215 million from its investment by offloading Kwik-Fit’s insurance arm to Belgium’s Ageas, the new name for Fortis.
The newspaper said Kwik-Fit’s underlying profits fell 1.5% to £98.4 million last year as higher costs squeezed margins on its fixed-price fleet-car contracts.
Marubeni, which is one of the largest dealers for Toyota and Mazda in Europe, is said to have turned its attention to Kwik-Fit after the break down of exclusive talks with Graphite Capital over the purchase of Micheldever.
The Japanese trading firm employs 29,000 people and has operations in areas including chemicals, minerals and food.