HONG KONG - Blackstone and Chinese online retailer JD.com are among more than 10 parties to bid for CMC Holdings, the sole distributor of FANCL's skincare products in Asia outside Japan, people with direct knowledge of the matter said. Bain Capital, Carlyle, MBK Partners, Sequoia Capital and CITIC Capital are also among the bidders for CMC, valuing the business owned by Hong Kong-based Chris Chan at close to $1 billion, the sources told Reuters. In August, Chan appointed Morgan Stanley to sell CMC, which operates more than 200 stores in Greater China and Southeast Asia. Chan, CMC, Bain, Carlyle, MBK and Morgan Stanley declined to comment. Blackstone, Sequoia, CITIC and JD.com did not respond to requests for comment. Some of the private equity firms are looking to team up with a strategic partner, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is confidential. China's internet giants Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings have shown interest and could join a bidding group later in the process, they added. Both declined comment. The interest in FANCL's business outside Japan indicates investor confidence in a consumer recovery in Asia, particularly in China which accounts for around 80% of FANCL Asia's revenue. FANCL, whose products are sold and marketed on Alibaba's TMall, JD.com and Tencent's WeChat, said this year it was in talks with its distributor to launch e-commerce platforms as soon as possible. Alibaba and JD, respectively, generated gross merchandise volume (GMV) of 498.2 billion yuan ($75.3 billion) and 271.5 billion yuan in this year's Singles' Day sales event, with Japan among the top-selling countries. CMC is expected to finalise a shortlist for the second round of bidding by the end of next week and binding bids are due by the end of January, the people said. Asia accounts for 53% of global skincare sales, Euromonitor data showed, with researchers expecting annual growth above 5% in the next five years. Chan is exiting CMC after 25 years as FANCL's sole distributor outside Japan. His contract for China expires in six years and that for the rest of Asia in 10, Reuters has reported. Apart from CMC, FANCL Corp also sells products via its own retail channels outside Japan, sometimes at different prices, people familiar with the situation said. Some bidders are concerned about this practice, which is known as "parallel import", as it could cause confusion and hurt business margins and any buyer will have to negotiate with FANCL for future arrangements, they said. FANCL and Kirin Holdings, which owns 30% of the Tokyo-listed company, are not involved in the sale process, the sources have said. Both declined comment. REUTERS
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