(Adds AutoScout and Hellman alliance in paragraph 3)
FRANKFURT, Oct 17 (Reuters) - German classifieds group Scout24 has picked three private equity firms for the second round of bidding for its autos unit AutoScout24, people close to the matter said on Thursday.
Permira, Apax and Hellman & Friedman have been allowed to proceed in the auction for the unit, which is expected to value AutoScout at 2-2.3 billion euros ($2.2-2.6 billion), they added.
Softbank-backed used-car dealing platform Auto1 had offered to buy AutoScout in the past, only to be turned down by Scout24 earlier this year.
Two people familiar with the matter said Auto1 had not made an offer on its own this time around, while a third person said that it joined forces with Hellman & Friedman in the bidding for AutoScout.
Scout24 and the bidders declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment.
AutoScout24 - which operates in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria - bills itself as the largest automotive digital marketplace in the European Union. It lags eBay's mobile.de in its home market, however.
U.S. activist investor Elliott has argued that Scout24's auto and property listings businesses have few synergies. It says ImmobilienScout24 could command a standalone valuation of 5 billion euros, while AutoScout24 could fetch up to 2.5 billion euros.
A joint bid by private equity houses Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone to take over Scout24 in its entirety failed in May after a share-price rally squeezed the premium on offer.
$1 = 0.8998 euros Reporting by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Tom Sims and David Evans