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German wine logistics group Hillebrand prepped for sale -sources

FRANKFURT, April 1 (Reuters) - German liquor logistics group Hillebrand is being prepared for sale by its private equity owner in a deal that could value it at more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.76 billion) in a sector that has seen valuations rise in the pandemic, people close to the matter said.

Belgian investor Cobepa is expected to mandate a sellside advisor in the coming months to organise the divestiture of the alcoholic beverage freight forwarder, and is expected to start shopping it to prospective buyers later this year, they said.

Cobepa and Hillebrand were not available for comment.

An online shopping boom during the COVID-19 pandemic has seen demand in logistics assets rise and buyers are comfortable paying full prices, people familiar with the industry said.

French railway operator SNCF is in the final stages of a sale of its railcar arm Ermewa as it seeks to shore up its finances in a deal that could value the unit at 2.5-3 billion euros or 10-12 times core earnings, people close to that auction said.

Infra structure investors Antin, GIP, and consortiums comprising CDPQ and DWS and a second one including Swiss Life and Natixis are expected to hand in final bids by a mid-April deadline in an auction organised by Lazard, the people said.

SNCF, Lazard and the prospective bidders declined to comment.

Elsewhere, in February, Kuehne & Nagel bought Asian logistics provider Apex for just below $1.2 billion, while Czech logistics parks operator CTP NV successfully listed on the stock exchange.

Mainz-headquartered Hillebrand has annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of 100-120 million euros and could be valued at around 15 times that, the people said.

Peers such as DSV, Kuehne und Nagel, Deutsche Post, XPO and Kerry Logistics have all seen their shares rise substantially over the last twelve months, trading in a wide range of 7-18 times their expected core earnings.

Logistics groups and private equity firms are expected to show an interest in Hillebrand, which has annual revenue of 1.4 billion euros, serving 25,000 companies and employing 2,700 staff.

The company was founded in 1844 and Cobepa first acquired a 40% stake in 2006, which it later increased to 58%. In October, Hillebrand bought British peer Braid which has 200 million euros in sales.

In the pandemic, Hillebrand benefited among other from a surge in bulk shipments of wine, which are being bottled in Europe and sold at retailers, while restaurants were unable to serve their typically pricier wines usually bottled directly at the vineyard.

$1 = 0.8518 euros Additional reporting by Gwen Barzic; editing by David Evans

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