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A consortium led by private-equity firm Carlyle Group (CG.O) and Chinese conglomerate Citic Group Corp has neared a deal to buy McDonald’s Corp’s (MCD.N) stores in China and Hong Kong for up to $3 billion, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The deal is likely to be signed before Christmas, the source said.

Reuters had reported in October that U.S. buyout firms Carlyle and Bain Capital LLC had been the front runners among the bidders for the fast-food giant’s China assets.

Financial Times reported earlier on Wednesday that Bain Capital had dropped out of the race, and that a group led by Citic Group and Carlyle were the front runners to the deal.

(Reporting by Denny Thomas in Hong Kong and Gayathree Ganesan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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