ABB looks to shed over $1 billion in non-core assets: sources

NEW YORK/LONDON Fri Feb 7, 2014 7:07am EST

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NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - Swiss industrial conglomerate ABB Ltd (ABBN.VX) is seeking to sell several non-core businesses in deals that could raise more than $1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

A number of industrial companies have been selling off assets to focus on their core strengths during a tentative economic recovery.

New ABB boss Ulrich Spiesshofer is casting a fresh eye over the group after his predecessor Joe Hogan spent more than $10 billion on acquisitions, and has said he is open to selling assets that do not fit into its portfolio.

The Zurich-based company is looking to hive off parts of Thomas & Betts Corp, the U.S. electrical components maker it acquired two years ago for $3.9 billion, and from Power-One Inc, the U.S. solar energy company it bought for about $1 billion last year, the people said.

A spokesman for ABB declined to comment.

Among the four assets up for sale are Thomas & Betts' steel structures business, as well as its heating and air conditioning unit operating under the Reznor brand, the sources said, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.

The steel structures business and Reznor unit accounted for about 17 percent of Thomas & Betts' 2011 sales and around 1 percent of ABB's overall group revenues, according to analysts.

ABB is also selling the power solutions unit of Power-One and a separate industrial services business, the people said. The power solution unit makes up around 27 percent of Power-One's 2012 sales or 0.7 percent of group revenues, analysts said.

These four businesses combined have about $150 million in annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) and could be sold for a high single-digit multiple of that amount, people familiar with the matter said.

Shares in ABB were trading up 0.4 percent by 1004 GMT, in line with the European industrial goods and services sector index .SXNP.

CARVED OUT

ABB already agreed to sell the assets of Baldor's generator-set business to Generac Holdings (GNRC.N) for an undisclosed price in October, the month after Spiesshofer became chief executive.

On the latest potential sales, ABB is working with several banks including Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC.N), Credit Suisse Group (CSGN.VX) and Raymond James to help find buyers, the people familiar with the matter said.

Private equity firms, which are keen to buy non-core assets being carved out of companies, are interested, they added.

Representatives for Bank of America, Credit Suisse and Raymond James did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In January 2012, ABB struck the deal to buy Thomas & Betts, which supplies the construction, communications and power industries with connectors for cables, steel masts and heating and ventilation products.

The engineering conglomerate bought Power-One Inc the following year, betting that growth in emerging markets would revive a sector hurt by overcapacity and weakening demand in recession-hit Europe.

Last year, ABB's German rival Siemens (SIEGn.DE) sold off the bulk of its water technology business as well its stake in mobile telecoms equipment maker Nokia Siemens Networks, and spun off its lighting business Osram (OSRn.DE).

On Thursday, industrial conglomerate Illinois Tool Works Inc (ITW.N) announced a $3.2 billion deal to sell its packaging business to private equity firm the Carlyle Group (CG.O).

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Soyoung Kim in New York and Anjuli Davies in London; Additional reporting by Caroline Copley in Zurich; Editing by Stephen Coates and Pravin Char)

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