NEW YORK (The Deal) -- French private equity shop Astorg Partners is in exclusive negotiations to sell its smart-card connectors maker Linxens SAS to Luxembourg-based buyout heavyweight CVC Capital Partners Group, after four years of ownership.
A joint announcement on Wednesday gave no valuation for the company, but the Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter, that CVC had agreed to pay €1.5 billion ($1.67 billion) for the company.
Astorg bought a 70% stake in what was then the Microconnections division of Bain Capital's hardware-connectors maker FCI Group, in a 2011 carve-out which valued the business at about €650 million. It announced at the time that the deal would be financed with debt of €320 million, arranged by Goldman Sachs (GS - Get Report), Nomura Group and Royal Bank of Canada (RY - Get Report).
Bain Capital retained the remaining 30% of the newly renamed Linxens, when it was first established as standalone business through FCI, although Astorg also promised to establish a broad-based employee shareholding scheme. However, a source at Linxens said on Wednesday they believed the Boston firm no longer had a stake in the company.
Astorg declined to disclose the current shareholder structure. A private equity source said only that Astorg had a majority stake in the company. Astorg also declined to disclose its return on the investment.
Linxens, of Guyancourt, France, has research and development centers and manufacturing sites in France, Singapore, Thailand and China. Its flexible etched circuits are used for contact, contactless and dual-interface smart-card applications as well as SIM cards. Its recent acquisition of Bangkok, Thailand-based KnL Group helped expand its product offering to include antennas and specialty integrated circuit substrates for a range of microchip connectors for portable electronic devices.
It generated sales of €202 million in 2010, rising to €218 million in the 12 months leading up to the acquisition in late 2011, and to €253 million in 2014. The company employs over 1,000 staff worldwide.
The term exclusive negotiations is often used in France to describe a deal which is already agreed upon, but is still subject to approval by the target company's works council as well as to regulatory approvals. This can take weeks, especially ahead of the annual August shut-down, which leaves company administrations and bureaucracies including the French government and the European Union competition regulators working with just a skeleton staff.