FRANKFURT, April 5 (Reuters) - Private equity groups 3i and Allianz Capital Partners have attracted three tentative bids for their jointly-owned ferry group Scandlines, a person close to the transaction said.
"The offers handed in by the Friday (April 5) deadline all came from private equity investors," the person said.
3i and ACP each own 50 percent of the southern Baltic's largest ferry group, which carries roughly 12 million passengers annually. In October, the investors appointed Goldman Sachs and ING to organise the sale, hoping to get up to 1.4 billion euros ($1.80 billion) for the group.
Private equity investors including Apollo, Axa Private Equity and Nordic Capital have shown interest in Scandlines, the source said, adding it remained unclear if they were the among the bidders.
Danish rival DFDS Seaways and Italian peer Grimaldi, shipping industry players that had been expected to consider a bid for Scandlines, did not participate in the auction, the source said.
3i and ACP, the private equity arm of German insurer Allianz declined to comment, while Apollo, Axa and Nordic were not immediately available for comment.
3i and ACP bought Scandlines at the peak of the buyouts boom in 2007, paying 1.5 billions euros backed with 1.28 billion euros of debt, according to Thomson Reuters LPC data, alongside minority investor Deutsche Seereederei which was bought out in 2010.
Scandlines had revenue of 611 million euros in 2011 and total earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of 167 million.
The group will publish 2012 figures next week but has already said that freight and passenger volume on its vital Germany-Denmark services has risen compared to the year earlier.
Scandlines has been buffeted by high oil prices, competition from toll bridges on some routes and faces a threat to onboard retail sales as the harmonisation of taxes between Denmark, Germany and Sweden reduces the incentive for passengers to buy wines and spirits.
Separately, an undersea road and rail tunnel between Denmark and Germany across the Fehmarn Belt is being planned for 2020. If it goes ahead, it would hit passenger numbers on one of busiest routes for Scandlines.