UPDATE 1-Weir says pursuing M&A opportunities across all divisions

Thu May 1, 2014 5:32am EDT

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LONDON May 1 (Reuters) - British engineer Weir Group is pursuing a range of acquisition opportunities across all its divisions, after a $5 billion bid for Finnish rival Metso was rejected last month, the company's chief executive said on Thursday.

There has been a flurry of deal-making in the past few weeks, including in the industrials sector where GE and Siemens are involved in a politically sensitive bid for French engineering company Alstom.

"There are some interesting opportunities out there and in the main I'd have to say that price expectations of sellers are tending to be pretty sensible," said Keith Cochrane, CEO of Weir - maker of pumps and valves for the mining, oil and gas industries.

Weir's plan for a tie-up with Metso ran into trouble almost as soon as it emerged on April 1. The Finnish state came out in strong opposition of the takeover, which aimed to strengthen the British company's minerals division. Weir's minerals division is its biggest in terms of revenue. Its other divisions are oil and gas and power.

"I'm relatively relaxed whether it is large or small, provided it hits strategy and the financial returns make sense," Cochrane said about potential acquisitions.

His comments followed Weir's first-quarter update, in which the company said it remained on track for a return to growth this year as demand for oil and gas equipment and services outstripped sluggish mining orders in the first quarter.

But adverse foreign currency movements would impact results this year, the company said, with a stronger pound already knocking around 50 million pounds off first quarter revenue.

Shares in Weir were down 3 percent in morning trade, losing some of the momentum gained from an around 25 percent share price rise over the year so far on the back of a stronger outlook for its oil and gas equipment market and the potential for deal-making in the sector.

Total orders were 7 percent higher than the same period last year. Orders for new equipment in the quarter fell 2 percent but were offset by aftermarket (repair and maintenance) orders rising 13 percent compared to the first quarter 2013.

Weir's oil and gas division, which has a strong position in U.S. shale, enjoyed its strongest quarter since the end of 2011 with order input up 33 percent on last year.

Mining orders by contrast continued to struggle, down 7 percent on last year, with original equipment orders falling as much as 27 percent. (Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by David Holmes and Jane Merriman)

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