TOKYO -- Japanese tire maker Bridgestone Corp. said on Friday it was interested in buying Britain's Kwik-Fit, fanning speculation over the fate of Europe's biggest independent auto parts, repair and replacement firm.
The Financial Times reported on Thursday that Bridgestone had joined with Mitsubishi Corp. to bid for Kwik-Fit, adding to competition from at least five private equity firms.
A Tokyo-based spokesman for Bridgestone -- which is aiming to expand its market share in Europe, where Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Michelin dominate -- said the company was eyeing Kwik-Fit, but declined to provide further details.
"We are of course interested, but can't comment on this case for now," he said.
The sale of the British tire and exhaust business is expected to close by the end of the summer.
Other bidders include private equity house Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and JPMorgan Partners, as well as Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse First Boston, according to the newspaper.
Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners owns a majority stake in Kwik-Fit after buying it from Ford Motor Co. several years ago for $635 million (350 million pounds.) Ford kept a 19 percent stake, the newspaper said.
Kwik-Fit, which has 2,300 outlets and 11,000 employees, scrapped plans for an initial public offering in April, choosing instead to put itself on the auction block in a sale hoped to raise as much as 800 million pounds.