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July 24 (Reuters) - Rent-A-Center Inc snubbed takeover interest from private equity firms HIG Capital and Lone Star Funds before it turned down an offer of $800 million from buyout firm Vintage Capital this month, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.
HIG and Lone Star did not offer a price for the company, but each said it would pay a premium for the business, the sources said. They asked not to be identified because the expressions of interest in an acquisition were not public.
HIG and Lone Star did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Rent-A-Center declined to comment.
The company said on July 11 it had rejected a $15 per share offer from Vintage, first reported by Reuters, in order to focus on its "strategic plan to restore growth and improve profitability." Rent-A-Center rents out furniture and electronics and also allows customers the ability to own the products through a lease program.
As early as March, Rent-A-Center received expressions of takeover interest from HIG and Lone Star, the sources said. Reuters could not confirm which firm made the first offer.
The Plano, Texas-based company was worth more than $2 billion a few years ago. Its shares traded for $36 per share in December 2014. Its shares were at $12.37 on Monday, down 40 cents, giving it a market capitalization of about $670 million.
Other companies in the rent to own retail category include Buddy's Home Furnishings, which Vintage Capital controls, and Aaron's Inc.
In January, activist investor Engaged Capital disclosed a large stake in the company, encouraged it to explore a sale, and eventually waged a proxy fight that the hedge fund won in June.
Engaged now has three director representatives on the company's seven-member board, including one seat for the hedge fund's founder, Glenn Welling. Rent-A-Center Chief Executive Officer Mark Speese, who started working for the company in the late 1970s, was voted off the board by shareholders and remains the CEO.
Marcato Capital Management, another activist hedge fund, has previously disclosed a 4.9 percent stake in the company and also called for the exploration of a sale. Engaged is the largest shareholder with a 16.9 percent stake, filings show. (Additional reporting by Lauren Hirsch and Mike Stone; Editing by David Gregorio)