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Gome may sell up to 20% share to funds

GOME Electrical Appliances Holdings Ltd, China's second-biggest electronics retailer, may sell as much as 20 percent of itself to private-equity funds, two people familiar with the plan said.

Bain Capital LLC, Carlyle Group, KKR & Co LP, Warburg Pincus LLC and Hopu Investment Management Co are among the funds that have expressed interest in buying Gome shares, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because no formal talks have started. The stake is worth HK$2.9 billion (US$374 million) based on Gome's last closing price.

Gome, whose billionaire founder Huang Guangyu is being investigated for alleged economic crimes, needs funds to repay debt and boost cash flow after its shares tumbled 77 percent last year. Huang, China's second-richest man and the retailer's biggest shareholder with 34 percent, stepped down as chairman this month and resigned from the company's board.

"Injecting new funds could renew investors' confidence," Sophie Fan, Hong Kong-based consumer analyst at CSC Securities HK Ltd, said in an interview with Bloomberg News yesterday "It's already difficult to borrow money from banks because of the credit crisis. The quickest way to get money is to sell shares."

The company seeks to sell up to 20 percent because it has a mandate from shareholders for a sale of that size, the people said. Selling more shares would require a new shareholder vote and may complicate the sale as Huang is being investigated and the firm has been unable to contact him for months, they said.

Tim Payne of Brunswick Group LLC, hired by Gome to handle public relations, said the firm has been approached, declining to elaborate.

Gome hasn't received any offers for the stake, the people said. The company's management will decide on how much to sell after reviewing initial bids, they said. The retailer's shares last traded at HK$1.12 before being suspended on November 24, valuing the company at HK$14.3 billion.


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