Bidders line up for Europe’s largest LBO

Europe’s leading financial buyers are preparing bids for Legrand, the French electrical equipment maker.

Europe’s leading private equity houses are thought to be preparing for a bidding war over Legrand, the French electrical equipment maker. If a deal goes ahead, Legrand, which was put up for sale by Schneider, its French peer, it could fetch the largest amount of cash ever raised in a European leveraged buyout.

Legrand has been put up for sale by Schneider, its French rival which acquired a 98 per cent in the business in a E4.6bn transaction last year only to be told by the European Commission last October that the deal violated European anti-trust regulation.

Private equity sponsors that have been linked to the sale include Cinven and BC Partners which according to London newspaper The Business are preparing a joint bid for the company. The newspaper says that Blackstone, the Washington-based house that has an office in London, is thinking about joining the duo in making an offer.

Rival groups CVC Capital Partners and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts are also understood to be following developments with interest.

Financial buyers are likely to encounter only limited competition from potential trade buyers. Observers say that Siemens, the German group, may come forward with an offer, but a number of other likely contestants such as General Electric have already said that they were unlikely to partake in an auction.

The sale is being handled by US investment bank Merrill Lynch. The deadline for submitting initial expressions of interest is February 15.