Bain, Carlyle Said to Be Among Bidders for Engie’s Equans
(Bloomberg) -- Private equity firms Bain Capital, Carlyle Group Inc., and a consortium of CVC Capital Partners and PAI Partners are among parties that made non-binding bids for Engie SA’s services unit Equans, people familiar with the matter said.
The buyout giants are competing with French groups Bouygues SA, Eiffage SA and Spie SA, which aim to expand in the business of providing energy and telecommunications services to companies, and commercial and residential buildings. The deal could be one of the largest corporate carve-outs in Europe this year.
Preliminary offers for Equans were tendered on Sept. 6, and Engie may take a couple of weeks to decide which bidders will make it into the second round, people said, asking not to be identified because the process is confidential. Equans may be valued at 5 billion euros ($6 billion) or more, according to two of the people.
Representatives for PAI and Carlyle confirmed that the private equity firms handed in bids, and declined to comment further. CVC and Bain weren’t immediately available to comment, while Engie declined to comment.
Buyout firms, armed with record amounts of capital, are keen to acquire assets carved out from large utilities like Engie. Equans installs and maintains air conditioning, electrical systems and telecommunications equipment, has 74,000 employees and more than 12 billion euros in annual revenue. The sale will help fund Engie’s transition to cleaner energy, including renewable power generation and infrastructure such as district heating and car-charging networks.
Eiffage and Bouygues said they can take on debt to buy Equans, while Spie said it would need to sell new shares to make the acquisition. Spie also said it would divest Equans’s non-European business to buyout firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, which used to be its main shareholder.
Eiffage and Bouygues stand a better chance of clinching Equans than the private-equity players, which may be less palatable acquirers in terms of guaranteeing jobs, said Francois Breton, a fund manager at Edmond de Rothschild Asset Management.
“There will be close political scrutiny” as the sale process takes place just a few months before French presidential elections, Breton said in a phone interview.
A spokesman for Bouygues wasn’t able to comment on the matter, while a spokesperson for Eiffage couldn’t immediately be reached. Spie Chief Executive Officer Gauthier Louette has said that his project is about growth rather than synergies, and that the industry is facing hiring difficulties.
Bain is ready to pledge that no forced redundancies will take place in France for five years, a person close to the U.S. private equity firm told Bloomberg. The funds won’t need to address overlapping jobs at headquarters and support functions in the case of a winning bid from one of the French companies, several people close to the buyout firms said.
Bain, PAI and CVC are ready to let Engie retain about a quarter of Equans, people familiar with the matter also said. The French utility has said it may use that option as a way to benefit from future growth in the services company.
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