* M. Stanley, Goldman, Merrill hired as advisers -sources
* Owners CCMP, Unitas ask banks to explore sale or float
* Sources say duo hope for 1.5 billion pound valuation
* Vacuum-technology firm has top ten chipmakers as clients
LONDON, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The owners of Edwards, a British engineering firm whose vacuum technology is used by the world's biggest chipmakers, have hired a trio of investment banks to explore a $2 billion-plus sale or flotation.
People familiar with the matter said CCMP Capital and Unitas Capital, both former buyout arms of JPMorgan, have hired Morgan Stanley (MS.N), Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC.N) to advise on strategic options for Edwards.
Those options are likely to include a sale to a technology company or rival buyout firm, and an initial public offering (IPO). The owners value Edwards at about 1.5 billion pounds ($2.3 billion), some of the people said.
Edwards competes in some areas with Applied Materials Inc (AMAT.O), the world's top supplier of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. It says its clients include all 10 of the world's biggest semiconductor makers, including Advanced Micro Devices Inc AMD.N and Korea's Hynix Semiconductor Inc (000660.KS).
Bank of America, Edwards, and Morgan Stanley declined to comment. CCMP, Goldman Sachs and Unitas did not immediately respond to requests for comment. (editing by Steve Slater)