Prospective buyers shortlisted for Swiss firm VAT Vacuum-sources

FRANKFURT Fri Oct 11, 2013 4:35am EDT

FRANKFURT Oct 11 (Reuters) - Family-owned Swiss firm VAT Vacuum Valves has attracted interest from industrial and financial investors, who are willing to pay roughly 800 million Swiss francs ($880 million) for the company, sources said.

Suitors including U.S.-based MKS Instruments and a private equity consortium comprising Swiss investors Capvis and Partners Group have made it to the third round of the auction, three people familiar with the transaction said.

VAT's chairman Richard Fischer told Reuters on Friday that he may be able to provide new information on the sale by year-end, declining to give more details right now.

The family owners have a preference for selling the maker of vacuum valves used in the semiconductor and flat screen industry, as well as in the coating of glass and tools, to either a rival or to Swiss investors, the sources said.

Many private equity investors starved of so-called 'primary deals', which are attractive because they offer greater scope for restructuring, and therefore, returns, had shown an interest in VAT but lack a Swiss background, the source added.

Two thirds of European private equity activity this year has involved one buyout house selling a company it owns to another - recycling deals to scoop fees.

VAT, which was founded by Siegfried Schertler in 1964, employs 900 staff and has annual sales of more than $300 million. It moved into the semiconductor market when Fischer took over in 1984. It does not disclose any earnings figures.

MKS, Capvis and Partners Group declined to comment. ($1=0.9109 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Greg Mahlich)