KKR renews attempt to sell German car repair chain ATU -sources

FRANKFURT Wed Oct 9, 2013 11:17am EDT

FRANKFURT Oct 9 (Reuters) - Private equity group KKR has launched a new attempt to find a buyer for loss-making car repair chain Auto-Teile Unger (ATU), a household name in Germany, in a bid to draw a line under an ill-fated investment, sources said.

Potential bids will need to compete against a proposal from ATU's creditors, which are offering to swap some of the company's debt of around 600 million euros for equity, two sources familiar with the transaction told Reuters on Wednesday.

"KKR is running a dual track and will likely decide before the end of the year whether it will opt for the credit bid or for the third-party bid," one of the sources said.

The private equity investor itself is unwilling to supply further equity, the source added. Restructuring experts have said in the past that ATU needs at least 100 million euros in fresh cash.

Lazard has been asked to screen the market for buyers, the sources said. An earlier auction had not produced any result.

ATU is suffering from weak customer demand as European car markets hit 20-year lows. Separately, online shops for car parts - like Delticom - are eating into its business.

KKR bought ATU from private equity peer Doughty Hanson for 1.45 billion euros ($2 billion) in 2004. It injected roughly 140 million euros of equity into it in 2008 to save its investment.

A large part of the purchase price was financed through debt, which was loaded onto ATU's books. In 2010, 450 million euros in senior debt was refinanced with secured notes maturing next year. Separately, mezzanine and second lien loans were refinanced with 143 million euros in floating rate notes (FRN).

Earlier this year, KKR entered talks with credit investment firm Centerbridge, which has bought a substantial portion of ATU's bonds, as well as with other creditors. The negotiations are focusing on a plan that includes swapping part of the company's debt for equity.

ATU's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) dropped to 62 million euros from 103 million in its fiscal year 2012/2013, which runs until the end of June. It posted a net loss for the period.

In August, ATU said it would present a restructuring plan by October.

Rating agency Moody's recently downgraded ATU to Caa3 from Caa2, citing an increased refinancing risk for the outstanding bonds, which are due between May and October 2014.

ATU, KKR and Lazard declined to comment.