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German industrial services giant Bilfinger SE explores sale after getting private equity interest

© GettyBilfinger Job cuts

Bilfinger SE, the German industrial services provider, has decided to explore a sale after receiving takeover interest from buyout firms, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Clayton Dubilier & Rice and Triton Partners are among several private equity firms that have expressed interest in acquiring Bilfinger, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Bilfinger is now working with an adviser to formally solicit interest in the company, the people said

Some private equity suitors are considering acquiring Bilfinger, growing the business through acquisitions and eventually seeking a listing of the larger entity, the people said.

The company hasn’t made a final decision on pursuing a sale and its plans could change, the people said.

Representatives for Bilfinger, CD&R and Triton declined to comment.

Bilfinger shares rose 1.3% in Frankfurt on Thursday, giving the company a market value of about 763 million euros ($902 million).

Bilfinger, once one of Germany’s biggest builders, reinvented itself as a focused industrial services company under chief executive officer Thomas Blades, who took charge of the group in 2016 with a strategy to cut costs, boost margins and focus on key markets.

The company has proved a difficult investment for Swedish activist investor Cevian Capital AB, which remains the biggest shareholder.

Bilfinger’s second-largest shareholder, ENA Investment Capital, had urged the firm earlier this year to hire an adviser to review whether its the best owner for the business.

Stock Drop

The Mannheim-based company continues to battle a low valuation with the stock down 43% in the past year, making it a longtime take-private candidate among buyout firms and bankers.

Hurdles to any deal include securing affordable financing as well as managing the business risks related to the pandemic slowdown and oil and gas exposure, people familiar with the matter have previously said.

Several buyout firms have run the numbers in the past but decided against pursuing a deal, they said.

Take-privates are also generally difficult in Germany because of takeover laws that protect minority investors.

Bilfinger has about 34,000 employees and operates in sectors including chemicals, energy, pharmaceuticals and cement with revenue of about 4.3 billion euros in financial year 2019, according to its website.

The group has an oilfield services business, Bilfinger Salamis UK, based in Aberdeen.

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