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NEW DELHI : Udaan, India’s largest business-to-business startup, has expressed interest to buy Metro AG’s India wholesale unit, joining deep-pocketed suitors, including Reliance Industries Ltd and Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group Co., a person directly aware of the plans said.

Metro, which has 31 wholesale distribution centres in India, is expected to sell the India unit by the end of September, the person said.

The bidders plan to leverage Metro’s wholesale stores that cater to small businesses, neighbourhood stores, and restaurants to help expand their reach in India’s top cities and access products. The winning bidder can also use the stores to fulfil online orders.

Metro opened its first store in India in 2003. In 2020-21, the company clocked 6,738.3 crore in sales.

A spokesperson for Metro AG said the company regularly assesses its global portfolio, such as its market position in the respective country, the life cycle of its operations, and the business’s growth potential.

“This is a general approach, and normal business applied to all countries, including India. We don’t comment on rumours and speculations," the spokesperson, based in Dusseldorf, Germany, said.

A spokesperson for CP Group, whose retail arm Siam Makro PCL operates wholesale cash and carry stores in India and other markets, declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Reliance Industries said: “As a policy, we do not comment on media speculation and rumours. Our company evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis."

Reliance Industries is the largest offline retailer in the country, operating retail stores across grocery, fashion, footwear and electronics segments.

Queries emailed to a spokesperson for Udaan remained unanswered. The business-to-business e-commerce platform operates across categories, including lifestyle, electronics, home and kitchen, staples, fruits and vegetables, FMCG, pharma, toys and general merchandise. Udaan, run by Hiveloop Technology Pvt., was founded by Sujeet Kumar, Amod Malviya, and Vaibhav Gupta.

“Each company has different metrics on how they have valued the Metro business in India and have put in a bid, basis that," the person cited above said on condition of anonymity.

However, the final decision on who wins the bid to take control of the company’s operations here will be taken in Germany. Whether Metro will keep a minority stake in the operations will be decided based on whether the new owner needs Metro’s expertise to operate the business.

Mint earlier reported that Metro is prioritizing the search for local partners to buy a majority stake in its India wholesale business.

Investment banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have been tasked to find either a buyer for the company’s entire business in the country or a partner who can acquire a majority stake. A 145-page information memorandum was circulated among potential buyers.

Metro will consider the buyer’s ability to get regulatory approvals and meet financial expectations and take care of existing employees, said the person.

Competition in India’s retail industry has only intensified over the last few years, with local conglomerates and foreign retailers ramping up investments in the market.

Those in the know of the retailer’s plans in India said that the company’s current operations are “too small" given the size and scope of the Indian retail market. The company has submitted a plan to scale its business in India, including growing operations to multiple hundreds of stores to prospective buyers.

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