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(Bloomberg) -- Dufry AG is considering a bid to acquire Italian airport retailer World Duty Free SpA as the Swiss company seeks to boost its global presence, according to people familiar with the matter.
Dufry is among companies and private-equity firms exploring a purchase of the 50.1 percent stake held by the Benetton family, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. World Duty Free is valued at about 2.2 billion euros ($2.5 billion).
Other potential bidders include Korean competitor Lotte DF Global and buyout firm KKR & Co., the people said.
World Duty Free Chief Executive Officer Eugenio Andrades said this month that the Novara, Italy based company is free to prepare for possible business combinations.
Representatives for Basel, Switzerland-based Dufry and for World Duty Free declined to comment. A spokesman for Lotte said the Seoul-based company had approached World Duty Free about a possible acquisition. Representatives for KKR didn’t respond to e-mailed requests for comment.
Acquiring World Duty Free, which operates stores at airports including London’s Heathrow and Gatwick, would create a business with projected annual sales of about $9 billion. Dufry CEO Julian Diaz has expanded the Swiss company through about a dozen acquisitions in the past decade, creating a dominant operator in the field of travel retailing.
World Duty Free operates 495 stores in 19 countries and 98 airports across the world, according to its website. The Benetton family has held a controlling 50.1 percent stake since the company was spun off from Autogrill SpA and began trading independently in 2013. The family would consider reducing its stake in a combination and favors an industrial partner, though is not in active negotiations, one of the people said.
For Dufry, the potential acquisition would be its second major transaction in less than a year. The company in June agreed to buy Nuance Group for $1.7 billion. A purchase of all of World Duty Free could become Dufry’s largest acquisition ever. Dufry, which has held on-and-off talks with World Duty Free owners for years, would be able to raise financing for another acquisition and wouldn’t face insurmountable antitrust issues, one of the people said.
Dufry purchased the Hudson News chain in 2008 and has built a network of more than 1,700 shops in airports, cruise liners, ports and other tourist destinations.
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