Visteon Confirms Discussions to Shed Its Halla Stake

Visteon Corp. (VC) on Tuesday confirmed it is in talks with a Korean private equity firm to sell its ownership stake in Halla Visteon Climate Control Corp., a final step in the autoparts maker's long-running restructuring program.

Van Buren Township, Mich.-based Visteon said it is engaged in discussions with Hahn & Co. over its 70% Halla Visteon stake, but offered no further details. A deal, if finalized, would likely be substantial, with local Korean media reports valuing the Halla stake at about 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion).

A deal would split Visteon's climate control business from its auto electronics operations, continuing a streamlining process that began soon after Visteon was spun out of Ford Motor Co. in 2000. Visteon gave back much of its high-cost footprint ahead of a 2009 bankruptcy, and in recent years has announced deals including a May sale of its global interiors business to an affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management LP.

Halla Climate, a one-time unit of South Korea's Halla Group, has been affiliated with Ford and then Visteon since the mid-1980s. The unit acquired Visteon's climate control operations outright in January 2013, giving the U.S. autoparts company a controlling stake.

Visteon executives have long complained that despite the cuts, Visteon suffered from a conglomerate discount, saying the market was failing to assign a robust value to its two remaining parts. Analysts have predicted a split was likely, though there has been some concern that Visteon could face hurdles managing tax credits should it sell the unit instead of spinning it out to shareholders.

Halla Visteon is the world's second largest maker of vehicle thermal management products, trailing only Japan's Denso Corp. But the unit — which trades on the Seoul exchange — could find growth hard to come by in the years to come, leading Visteon to want to focus on electronics.

The electronics business contributed just 20% of Visteon's $7.44 billion in total 2013 revenue, though the company earlier this year did add some electronics assets of Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) for $265 million to augment its portfolio.

Splits have been a hot topic of discussion among autoparts firms, with the industry striving to streamline and focus resources on select businesses. In September Carl Icahn-controlled Federal-Mogul Holdings Corp. (FDML) announced plans to separate its powertrain business from its after-market unit.

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