Rumours that Netherlands-based Numico is about to auction its US vitamin retailer GNC, reported by the New York Post yesterday, have not been confirmed by the company. However the financial press suggests that the firm is expecting some informal bids for the unit.
GNC is the US' largest supplement chain but it has been struggling since Numico took it over in 1999. Last November's announcement that the group was to change strategy included the sale of vitamin manufacturer Rexall Sundown (not yet achieved), but GNC was at that point to remain part of the group.
Since then Numico has sold its US supplement business Unicity Network to an American investment company, Activated Holdings and also divested some of its smaller European operations. Whether GNC is next, is not yet clear. The New York Post report claimed that Numico recently instructed investment bank Goldman Sachs 'to run a formal auction for the sale of the vitamin retailer'. However Dow Jones reported that while the firm admitted to holding informal talks with several parties on the possible sale of GNC, it stressed that there was no question of an auction of the unit.
And a company spokesperson told Reuters that it is expecting "informal bids from seriously interested parties to see what GNC would be worth," according to a report yesterday morning. There seems to be no clear signs that a sale will go ahead or if Numico can still turn the business around.
Potential buyers suggested by the New York Post included its past owner, Thomas H. Lee Partners, and the NBTY-owned Nature's Bounty, the supplement maker that runs the Vitamin World chain.
Last month the company announced that board member Bill Watts was to step down from the board as he had expressed a potential interest in buying the GNC chain in partnership with a US venture capital firm. However no further decision has yet been taken and Numico has released no additional information.