HONG KONG—Hong Kong's richest man is planning to sell his company's flagship ParknShop supermarket chain, one of two that dominate the city's grocery business, in a deal that could fetch between US$1 billion and US$2 billion, people familiar with the matter said Friday.
Hutchison Whampoa aims to sell the ParknShop supermarket chain.
Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., 0013.HK +1.08% which is controlled by Li Ka-shing, has hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS +0.18% and Bank of America Merrill Lynch to handle the sale of ParknShop, the people said, adding that details of the company and sale will be sent to potential bidders soon.
Hutchison Whampoa decided to sell ParknShop last month and the supermarket chain is expected to complete its internal due-diligence process by the middle of August, a person familiar with the matter said.
Hutchison Whampoa, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch couldn't be reached for comment.
The move by Mr. Li comes at a time when his global ports-to-telecommunications conglomerate is facing its most challenging environment in recent years, with growth slowing in most markets and some major economies in retreat. It is common for Mr. Li to sell assets to keep profits growing. In 2011, Hutchison Whampoa booked a gain of HK$44.30 billion (US$5.7 billion) from the listing of its ports assets in Singapore.
A ParknShop sale would provide strong cash flow for Hutchison to further expand its overseas operations. The company has gone on a shopping spree in Europe since the start of the global financial crisis, spending billions of dollars on infrastructure and telecom assets, taking advantage of attractive prices and a weak euro.
In June, Hutchison Whampoa said it would buy Telefónica SA's TEF.MC +0.27% O2 Ireland unit for €850 million (US$1.1 billion). A consortium of Mr. Li's companies earlier announced the purchase of a waste-management business in the Netherlands.
Mr. Li plans to exit Hong Kong's grocery-store market, which is an effective duopoly, in part because it is mature and growing slowly. The two largest supermarket chains in Hong Kong—ParknShop and Wellcome, which is owned by Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd DFIHY +0.46% —accounted for a combined of 73% market share last year, according to Euromonitor.
A common complaint in Hong Kong is that the cost of living is high because most of the city's stores, bus companies, residential and office buildings and utilities are owned by a small group of tycoons who have little incentive to compete with one another.
The Hong Kong-based ParknShop, established in 1973, has more than 300 outlets in Hong Kong, Macau and southern China. As of 2012, its 33.1% share of supermarket sales in Hong Kong was second only to Wellcome's 39.8%, Euromonitor said. China Resources Enterprises Co.'s 0291.HK -0.85% CR Vanguard Supermarket was third with 7.8% market share.
ParknShop entered the China market in 1984 with a store in Shenzhen. China's supermarket sector is highly fragmented with no dominant player. Lianhua Supermarket Holdings Co., 0980.HK 0.00% which is owned by Brillance Group Co., was the largest supermarket operator in the country last year with 1.5% market share, according to Euromonitor.
Hutchison Whampoa doesn't disclose financial figures for ParknShop. According to its annual report, the company's Hong Kong operations recorded growth in earnings before interest and taxes last year, driven by cost efficiency, while its China operations reported a decline in revenue and also in earnings before interest and taxes, amid slower economic growth.