Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co., one of China’s largest dairy companies, is reportedly among potential bidders in the race to buy Kirin Holdings’ Australian food and beverage business.

Japan’s Kirin announced earlier in October it had started a sales process for its subsidiary, Lion Dairy & Drinks (LDD), following a strategic review. LDD handles the Japanese firm’s production and distribution of its dairy, soft drinks and juice brands in Australia.

And according to a report by Bloomberg, Canada-based dairy business Saputo is also among the candidates. Quoting unnamed sources, the newswire said both Saputo and Yili have approached investment banks with regard to exploring potential offers for LDD.

A sale of Kirin’s dairy business could fetch about AUD2bn (US$1.4bn), the sources told Bloomberg, adding that other bidders could also include Australia’s Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd.

Kirin is believed to be requesting first-round bids for the unit by late November.

In 2009, Kirin bought Australian beverage business Lion Nathan and subsequently merged the new assets with National Foods. Two years later, Kirin renamed the arm Lion.

And in 2015, Saputo acquired Lion’s “everyday” cheese business, taking control of the Coon, Cracker Barrel, Mil Lel and Fred Walker brands. Lion retained what it termed “speciality” cheese brands including South Cape and King Island Dairy.

Neither Kirin or Yili could be reached for comment by just-food today (24 October) outside of business hours, while calls to Saputo’s office went unanswered.