CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Permira to buy up to 61 pct of Israel's Netafim

Thu Sep 22, 2011 6:24am EDT

(Corrects in second paragraph and second bullet point to show $1 billion is enterprise value of the whole of Netafim, not the value of the 61 pct)

* Permira does not disclose price for Netafim stake

* Source says deal puts enterprise value of about $1 bln on company

TEL AVIV, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Private equity firm Permira said its funds had agreed to buy a stake of up to 61 percent in Israel's Netafim Ltd, a provider of irrigation systems.

Permira did not disclose the price it would pay and said the deal was subject to antitrust conditions, but a source close to the deal told Reuters on Thursday the deal would put an enterprise value of about $1 billion on Netafim.

Permira will buy the shares from the kibbutzim Hatzerim, Yiftach and Magal and Israeli funds Markstone and Tene. Hatzerim will remain a significant shareholder and Magal will retain a minority stake.

"We firmly believe that an acquisition of a controlling stake by such a prominent fund will help Netafim expand dramatically and further improve its performance and results," Netafim President and CEO Igal Aisenberg said in a statement.

"The new shareholders are long-term investors and committed to the core activities of Netafim, including its plants in Israel."

Founded in 1965, Netafim pioneered the use of "dripper" lines providing spiral water passageways through which water flow can be controlled and delivered to the roots of crops, increasing crop yield and reducing water consumption.

It has a 30 percent global market share.

"The adoption of the technology is in its early stages in large emerging markets and substantial growth opportunities remain," said Torsten Vogt, a partner and co-head of Permira's industrials sector team, noting drip irrigation technology would address water and food scarcity as the global population grows.

Netafim has expanded into landscaping, greenhouse projects and biofuel energy crops such as sugar cane.

Permira said its funds were backing Netafim's management to accelerate revenue growth and further expand internationally, especially in emerging markets such as China and South America. (Reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Steven Scheer and David Holmes)

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