The sale of CJ Foodville’s bakery chain Tous Les Jours is back on track, with global private equity (PE) firm Carlyle Group weighing up possible participation in the final round of bidding and some foreign PE firms also reportedly taking another look at the company.

Interest levels have risen so much that South Korean conglomerate CJ Group plans to hold the final round of bidding for the bakery chain by the end of December, industry sources said on Wednesday (December 2). The group is expected to hold private talks on terms of the deal with global PE firms, including Carlyle, which comprise most new potential buyers.

The foreign PE firms are attracted to the bakery chain’s growth potential in global markets, whereas the domestic PE firms which initially showed interest had sought to reduce costs and strengthen efficiency through the deal, industry sources said.

CJ Foodville posted revenue of 890.3 billion won ($750 million) on a consolidated basis at the end of 2019, with about 400 billion won of this amount coming from the bakery business. Tous Les Jours currently operates overseas branches in the U.S., China, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Mongolia, generating revenue of 80 billion won.

However, they are not in good shape, with branches in Vietnam and Indonesia continuing to make losses. The bakery chain already sold the management rights of its businesses in the three Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Zhejiang to Chinese PE firm Hosen Capital.

Some market insiders said CJ Group could have sold the bakery chain more smoothly if it had marketed the deal to foreign potential buyers from the start. The company and sale manager Deloitte Anjin initially tried to sell the chain to a domestic PE firm and multiple strategic investors through a private deal, but all of the attempts failed.

With some foreign PE firms starting to show interest, CJ Group has reportedly hired a foreign investment bank to handle the sale process. The newly-hired sale manager is said to be responsible for attracting foreign potential buyers to the deal, which confirms that the pool of prospective buyers has switched from domestic firms to offshore groups.

CJ Group has put Tous Les Jours up for sale to offload its non-core businesses. It tried to arrange a private deal last year, then switched to a public auction in May, but failed to attract any offers in the final round of a recent public auction. (Reporting by Ik-hwan Choi)