Tesco's Dunnhumby has another suitor as Hellman & Friedman join WPP, Nielsen and several private equity firms

Lynsey Barber
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Every little helps: Another Dunnhumby bidder emerges (Source: Getty)

Yet another company has joined the clamor for a slice of Tesco's data business which was behind the supermarket's hugely successful Clubcard loyalty scheme.

Hellman & Friedman, the US private equity firm, is the latest bidder said to be interested in Dunnhumby, joining a crowded line-up of potential buyers willing to splash out as much as £2bn, the Times reports.

Dunnhumby was put up for sale by Dave Lewis following Tesco's disastrous profit blackhole in a bid to reduce its debts amid the worst annual loss in its 96-year history.

Read more: What assets has the supermarket sold off and what's heading to the checkout?

The customer data firm which Tesco first invested in and then took over fully, is one of its most lucrative assets with the boom in big data, and has sparked major interest from ad group WPP, consumer measurement company Nielsen and a handful of private equity firms.

A significant hurdle to any deal was overcome after Tesco ended an exclusive partnership with US retailer Kroger which would have hampered any expansion of the company in potentially one of its largest markets.

While the end of the partnership paves the way for a deal, it may have reduced Dunnhumby's price-tag by more than half, according to several reports, having been Dunnhumby's second largest customer.

Silver Lake, Dubilier & Rice, TPG, Warburg Pincus, Carlyle Group, Permira and CVC have all been in the frame as potential Dunnhumby bidders.

Tesco brought in Goldman Sachs at the start of the year to explore sale options for Dunnhumby, including a full or partial sale.

Lewis said at the time: “The potential sale of Dunnhumby will have no impact on Clubcard. We don’t need to own it to have commercial arrangements in place. It is a great business, but it needs further investment. We are looking at all the different options. What I would say is there has been an awful lot of interest in that business and some people will want to work with Tesco and others might not want Tesco to be involved at all."

The troubled supermarket is also exploring options for the sale of its business in South Korea in a fire-sale of assets aimed at streamlining the business.

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