HONG KONG • Hong Kong's billionaire Cheng family, which controls a real estate and jewellery empire, is exploring a bid for European fuel supplier Varo Energy, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The companies have held talks about a deal that could value Varo Energy, backed by investors including Carlyle Group, at about US$2.3 billion (S$3.1 billion), including debt, according to the people.
No final agreements have been reached, and there is no certainty the negotiations will lead to a transaction, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.
Tycoon Henry Cheng has been pursuing acquisitions as he leads family-owned conglomerate Chow Tai Fook (Holding) beyond its property roots. The group completed its first foray into Australian utilities with the 2017 purchase of power producer Alinta Energy Holdings, Bloomberg-compiled data show.
Last month, an arm of the family's New World Development agreed to buy a Hong Kong insurer for US$2.75 billion.
Reggeborgh, a private Dutch investor, and Vitol Group, the world's biggest independent oil trader, also own stakes in Varo.
In April, the company - which has a head office in Switzerland and is registered in the Netherlands - scrapped plans for an initial public offering due to unfavourable market conditions.
Representatives for Varo, Carlyle, Reggeborgh and Vitol declined to comment. A spokesman for the Chengs' publicly traded retail business, Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group, said she could not immediately comment on behalf of the family. A representative for their listed property flagship, New World Development, did not immediately respond to e-mailed queries.
The proposed Amsterdam Stock Exchange listing may have valued Varo at as much as US$2.3 billion, people familiar with the matter have said. Each of the company's three shareholders had planned to sell a third of their shares.
Varo runs hundreds of fuel stations throughout the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. It also owns stakes in two refineries and controls about three million cubic m of fuel storage capacity, according to its website. The company had US$13.4 billion of revenue in 2017.