PARIS (Reuters) - A consortium led by Paris-based AXA Private Equity has raised its bid for Elior ELIO.UL and is offering to buy a minority stake in the French caterer, French daily Les Echos said on Wednesday.
"After a total freeze of the talks, the consortium agreed last weekend to raise its bid by 250 million euros, which vould value the group at 3.7 billion euros ($4.9 billion)," the paper said, citing several sources close to the matter.
AXA Private Equity could not be reached immediately for comment.
The new offer by AXA Private Equity and Canadian pension fund Caisse de Depot du Quebec would still fall short of the 4 billion euros sought by Elior's main owners, British private equity group Charterhouse Capital partners CHCAP.UL and Chequers Capital.
But it would allow them to continue to receive a share of the group's profits, since they would retain a 51 percent stake in the company, the paper said.
Rival private equity groups CVC Capital Partners CVC.UL and BC Partners BCPRT.UL, have also raised their joint offer, which had valued Elior at 3.5 bilion euros, but talks between these two funds and the sellers were at a standstill, Les Echos said.
The Financial Times reported in June that Charterhouse was considering taking Elior public this year after bids received that month fell short of its 4 billion euro asking price.
However, an initial public offering would be difficult to pull off this year, given that Elior's fiscal year ends in September, and could also be complicated by a weaker-than-expected summer sales season.
Charterhouse bought Elior for 2.5 billion euros in 2006. The private equity firm owns 62.3 percent, Elior's co-founder Robert Zolade has 24.7 percent and Chequers Capital 7.8 percent. The remaining 5.2 percent is owned by other investors.
Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by David Goodman