Japan’s Marubeni enters bidding in Kwik-Fit auction

TYRE firm Kwik-Fit may be snapped up by Japanese giant Marubeni.

Marubeni, which employs 29,000 people and is one of the largest general trading companies in Japan, was previously keen to acquire the tyre wholesaler Micheldever. But exclusive talks with Graphite Capital broke down after Marubeni dropped its offer from the agreed £200m.

Now it is being suggested the firm will throw itself into a straight fight with competitors Bridgestone and Michelin for control of Kwik-Fit, in the £650m auction launched by Kwik-Fit’s French private equity owner PAI, under the stewardship of Credit Suisse.

Marubeni would be a formidable competitor. It is one of the largest dealers for Toyota and Mazda in Europe, with operating interests in chemicals, minerals and foods, as well as being the owner of a network of 24 car showrooms in the UK and the distributor in Europe of Yokohama tyres.

Marubeni holds working interests in the North Sea and, on 25 October 2010, announced an agreement with a subsidiary of BP to acquire working interests in oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico for $650m.

Kwik-Fit was bought by PIA in 2005 for £800m. It then realised £215m through sales of part of the insurance arm of the firm.