| SAO PAULO
SAO PAULO Saraiva SA Livreiros & Editores (SLED4.SA) has emerged as the likely buyer of Groupe Fnac SA's (FNAC.PA) Brazilian business, the latest consumer electronics retailer to succumb to a three-year recession in Latin America's No. 1 economy, two people with knowledge of the process said on Thursday.
The investment-banking unit of Banco Santander Brasil SA (SANB11.SA), which is Fnac's financial advisor on the process, has already got in touch with a list of buyout firms including General Atlantic LLC, Advent International Corp and HIG Capital LLC to sound out their interest in the unit, the people said.
According to the people, who asked for anonymity as the process is private, Santander Brasil bankers also invited Península Participações SA, which oversees the fortune of retail tycoon Abilio Diniz's family, to participate in the process.
Press representatives for Brazilian bookstore and publishing group Saraiva, Advent and Península declined to comment. France-based Fnac (FNAC.PA) confirmed the hiring of Santander, but declined to give any information on potential suitors or the status of the process. HIG Capital, General Atlantic and Santander did not immediately comment.
The people said there is no certainty a deal will be struck.
Fnac is among a group of Brazilian appliance and consumer electronics retailers trying to sell themselves after their traditional playbook of brick-and-mortar outlets with lots of floor space and slow inventory turnover has become increasingly unsustainable in Brazil's worst recession on record.
The three-year recession has restricted access to credit, driven the number of unemployed Brazilians to about 13 million and severely impacted demand for consumer electronics and other durable goods. Fnac's revenue in the country slumped by about 8 percent in 2015.
Fellow French retailer Casino Guichard Perrachon & Cie (CASP.PA) is selling a 43 percent controlling stake in Via Varejo SA (VVAR11.SA), Brazil's No. 1 appliance chain. Aside from Via Varejo, other potential takeover targets include Máquina de Vendas SA and smaller rival Eletrosom SA.
Fnac's presence in Brazil spans about two decades. Currently, the unit runs 12 stores in 10 Brazilian cities, with revenue accounting for less than 2 percent of the group's 7.4 billion euros ($7.9 billion) in annual sales globally, according to company data.
In addition, efforts to integrate Darty Plc, which Fnac acquired last year, have also led the French chain to focus expansion on Europe, mainly in France, Spain and Portugal.
($1 = 0.9374 euros)
(Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Chris Reese)