FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Companies interested in lighting assets will be able to bid for top European brands Philips and Osram in two separate auctions starting this month, industry sources on Friday.
The divestments will allow Philips and Osram to focus on their core businesses and draw a line under businesses they view as having a low growth potential and shrinking margins.
Potential strategic buyers, mainly from China, hope the brand names and distribution networks will help sell their own products globally, while private equity players may restructure the businesses and sell them later.
Dutch technology group Philips has put its lighting arm — the world’s largest maker of lights — on the block.
While Philips has not yet decided whether to list the lighting business on the stock exchange or outright sell it, it has asked for tentative bids for the unit, which may be valued at roughly 4-6 billion euros ($4.36-6.53 bln), by the end of January, people familiar with the deal said.
Private equity groups will likely value the business at 7-8 times its expected core earnings, the sources said.
Over the past four quarters ending Sept. 30, 2015, Philips Lighting reported sales of around 7.2 billion euros and earnings before interest, tax and amortization (EBITA) of around 630 million euros, stripping out more than 200 million euros worth of impairment and restructuring charges.
A consortium comprising buyout groups KKR, CVC and Onex is expected to make an offer for the business, as well as peers Bain, Apollo, Blackstone and Chinese bidders, they said, adding that U.S.-based Acuity may show interest in parts of the unit.
Philips Lighting recently struck partnerships with Apple and Cisco in a bid to bring high-margin programmable LED lighting to homes and offices.
Separately, Philips last year agreed to sell its smaller Lumileds unit to Chinese investors in March. But doubts arose over the deal in October after a U.S. government body raised objections.
Philips may have found a way to close that deal, a person familiar with the matter said.
A Philips spokesman said discussions with U.S. authorities are ongoing, and the closing of the deal is uncertain, declining to comment further on the two sales.
“While the runner-ups in the Lumileds sale (KKR, CVC, Bain) had been told until late 2015 to be ready for renewed bids, they are now receiving the message that tweaks to the Lumileds deal have made it quite likely to go through,” the person said.
Separately, German peer Osram has asked for tentative bids for its traditional lamps business with 2 billion euros in sales and roughly 100 million euros EBITA next week.
Bidders are likely offer to value the business at roughly 500 million euros, the sources said.
While the traditional light bulb business is expected to decline as more energy efficient technologies like light-emitting diodes (LEDs) emerge, Osram has attracted interest from Chinese buyers, who are interested in the brand and distribution channels in Europe and the United States.
Chinese LED products maker MLS is expected to make an offer, sources familiar with the deal said, as well as a consortium comprising Chinese group Foshan and buyout group Bain.
Shanghai Feilo Acoustics, which said in July it already had made a non-binding offer, is no longer pursuing the asset, the sources added.
“The sales process is ongoing,” an Osram spokesman said.
The prospective bidders for Philips and Osram lamps businesses declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment.
Reporting by Arno Schuetze; Additional reporting by Toby Sterling, Freya Berry, Matthew Miller and Jens Hack; Editing by Harro Ten Wolde and Katharine Houreld