TOKYO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Turkey's Yildiz Holding has launched the sale of Godiva chocolate's Japanese business with the first round of the auction set to close early next month, sources said.
The auction is being handled by Morgan Stanley, said the sources who asked not be identified because the sale process is private.
Valuations are not set, with some sources estimating the business to be worth closer to $1 billion.
In September, sources told Reuters the sale of Godiva's Japanese business could fetch around $1.5 billion.
Spokeswomen at Morgan Stanley and Godiva Japan declined to comment.
Revenues at Godiva's Japanese business have almost tripled since 2010 to reach 39.8 billion yen ($353.62 million) in 2017, according to the company.
Japan is the world's sixth-biggest chocolate market, according to Euromonitor International, with estimated 2018 retail sales of $5.2 billion.
Yildiz, one of Turkey's biggest conglomerates with brands that include McVitie's biscuits and Flipz chocolate pretzels, bought Godiva in 2007.
The sale of Godiva in Japan is most likely to attract private equity buyers hungry for assets, one of the sources said, because the maturity of the Japanese market could make it harder for a strategic buyer to produce further growth.
Private equity firms are actively seeking deals in Japan.
In 2017, they enjoyed a record year with deals struck worth $24.6 billion - headlined by the $18 billion sale of Toshiba Corp's chip unit to a consortium led by Bain Capital.
However this year, private equity has so far been involved in just $2.4 billion worth of deals, according to Refinitiv data. ($1 = 112.5500 yen) (Reporting by Junko Fujita Additional reporting by Kane Wu in Hong Kong Edited by Malcolm Foster and Darren Schuettler)