People pass by Toys ‘R’ Us store at Times Square in New York on March 9. (Reuters photo)

HONG KONG: Toys “R” Us Inc’s creditors are pushing for a better deal for the Asian business.

The unprofitable company, currently aiming to wind down its US operations, has asked for non-binding bids for its growing Asian unit by early April, according to people familiar with the matter.

Toys “R” Us is working with Lazard Ltd on the sale process, seeking to solicit a wider range of bids as it continues concurrent deal talks with its local partner, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are confidential.

The retailer has sent preliminary information on the business to potential buyers including Chinese private equity firms, the people said. A deal could value the Asian arm at around $1 billion, according to the people.

Toys “R” Us is holding discussions to offload its 85% stake in the Asian venture to Hong Kong’s billionaire Fung brothers, who own the remainder of the unit, Bloomberg News reported last month.

The company’s creditors — lenders and bondholders holding about $5 billion of debt — have sought to open up the sale process in the hopes of introducing more competitive tension and fetching a higher price, one of the people said.

While Toys “R” Us wasn’t able to salvage its US operations, the Asia Pacific business has continued to increase revenue. The company last year combined its Japanese unit with the broader Asia joint venture, which now operates more than 400 outlets throughout the region, its website shows.

The process is at an early stage, and there’s no certainty it will lead to a transaction, the people said. Representatives for Toys “R” Us and Lazard declined to comment, while a spokeswoman for Fung Group said she couldn’t immediately comment.

Private equity dealmaking in the Asia Pacific region is on a tear, with the value of transactions soaring 41% last year to a record $159 billion, according to a Bain Co report released Thursday. Fundraising activity increased to $66 billion last year, led by the larger, more established funds.

Toys “R” Us filed a motion seeking Bankruptcy Court approval to begin winding down its US business, it said in a statement Thursday. The retailer failed to turn around sales during the crucial holiday season and started missing payments to some suppliers in recent days.

News Reporter

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