UPDATE 2-Bilfinger buys US water firm in drive for new customers

Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:40am EST

* Buys Johnson Screens from Weatherford International

* CFO says purchase price close to 100 mln eur

* Purchase prices represents 8-9 times EBITA

* Johnson has 1,200 employees, annual output of 160 mln euros

* Bilfinger Shares rise 2.1 pct, outperform midcap index

By Peter Dinkloh

FRANKFURT, Jan 18 (Reuters) - German group Bilfinger , which has shifted to servicing industrial plants from construction, will buy water technology company Johnson Screens for around 100 million euros ($134 million) to access customers in the United States and Australia.

Finance chief Joachim Mueller did not give the exact price of the transaction but said it represented 8-9 times earnings before interest, taxes and amortization (EBITA) of the company.

Johnson Screens, owned by Weatherford International, had sales including revenue from minority partners of 160 million euros in 2011, compared with Bilfinger's 8.5 billion euros, Bilfinger said on Friday.

"An attractive acquisition from our point of view," DZ Bank analyst Marc Nettelbeck said. "We appreciate Bilfinger's step-by-step M&A approach and therefore our rating remains 'Buy'".

Bilfinger, which traces its roots to a bridge builder founded in 1883, has been reducing its more risky construction operations in favour of maintaining, modernising and operating buildings, industrial plants and power stations.

It has not turned itself into a fully-fledged plant maker, but rather cleans and maintains them to avoid responsibility for the completion and functioning of a whole facility.

Bilfinger is using acquisitions to help meet its target of doubling net income to 400 million euros in 2016 and raising earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation (EBITA) to 700 million.

The takeover of Minnesota-based Johnson Screens allows Bilfinger to double output in the water and waste water sector to 300 million euros while maintaining a single-digit EBITA margin, Bilfinger said.

Bilfinger appears to have paid slightly more for Johnson than it was comfortable with judging by comments last year from chief executive Roland Koch who said he would be reluctant to pay more than 6-8 times a target company's EBITA.

Bilfinger, which claims it has become the leading specialist for components for water and waste water with the takeover, started expanding that division by buying the filter division of Italian manufacturer Diemme in 2011.

The company now has about 850 million euros left for acquisitions, Koch said.

Bilfinger shares were up 2.1 percent to 74.76 euros at 1448 GMT, outperforming a 0.6 percent increase for the MDAX index of mid-sized stocks traded in Frankfurt. Weatherford International advanced 1.4 percent.