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Preferred bidders for Elior's Areas arm to be chosen by March - sources

PARIS (Reuters) - Preferred bidders for the Areas business of French company Elior (ELIOR.PA) are expected to be chosen by the start of March, a source close to the matter told Reuters.

The source added that a second round of bids for the Areas catering business was also underway.

A separate source had earlier told Reuters that Italian company Autogrill (AGL.MI) had submitted a bid for Areas, and that around 10 private equity funds - including KKR and Lone Star - were considering making a bid.

Analysts value Areas - which has core earnings of about 200 million euros - at 7.5 to 10 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) compared to 8 to 11 times for Autogrill or Britain's SSP Group Plc (SSPG.L).

The website for Areas says the company is France's biggest travel caterer, with 842 restaurants and outlets in France.

(Reporting by Jean-Michel Belot; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta/Benoit van Overstraeten)