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(Reuters) - Private equity firm Carlyle Group LP (CG.O) has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) to help it explore the sale of one of the largest U.S. herbal supplement makers, Nature's Bounty Co, people familiar with the matter said.
Carlyle is preparing to sell Nature's Bounty, whose brands include Solgar and MET-Rx, at a time of growing Chinese interest in U.S nutrition companies. Chinese consumers, distrustful of their country's safety standards, have demonstrated a strong appetite for such U.S. products.
Nature's Bounty, formerly known as NBTY Inc, has roughly $3 billion in sales, and could fetch as much as $6 billion in a sale, one of the sources said.
Ronkonkoma, New York-based Nature's Bounty has a significant retail business in Europe under the banner Holland & Barrett, and may opt to sell it separately, though prefers to sell the business as one, that source added.
The sources asked not to be named because the matter is confidential. Nature's Bounty did not respond to requests for comment. Carlyle and Goldman Sachs declined to comment. Bloomberg News first reported Carlyle's plans to sell Nature's Bounty earlier on Friday.
Carlyle acquired NBTY in 2010 for $3.8 billion.
Earlier this year, Iovate Health Sciences International Inc, the Canadian owner of nutrition supplement MuscleTech, was sold to China's Xiwang Foodstuffs Company Ltd for $730 million.
GNC Holdings Inc (GNC.N), a U.S. vitamin retailer, last year announced it was exploring a sale. It has spoken with potential Chinese buyers, but has not yet announced any deal.
Reporting by Lauren Hirsch; Editing by Andrew Hay