* Elior sets IPO price range of 14.35-17.50 euros
* To list on Paris bourse on June 11 after 8-yeear hiatus
* Elior could spend 450 mln euros on acquisitions - CFO (Adds CFO comments, details)
By Dominique Vidalon and Noëlle Mennella
PARIS, May 28 Europe's third-largest catering group Elior said it aimed to raise at least 845 million euros ($1.2 billion) in a mid-June initial public offering (IPO) and would use the proceeds to cut debt and fund further expansion, notably in the United States.
The company, which competes with France's Sodexo and Britain's Compass, set a price range for its IPO of 14.35 to 17.50 euros per share on Wednesday and set an expected June 11 date for its return to the Paris bourse after an eight-year absence.
Elior will be one of largest new listings on the French bourse this year along with Coface, the trade credit insurance unit of French bank Natixis, IntercontinentalExchange Group's Euronext, energy services group Spie and Atos Worldline, the payment and transactions processing unit of IT service group Atos.
Chief Financial Officer Olivier Dubois told a news conference the listing would value Elior at 2.4-2.8 billion euros and that 31 to 35.4 percent of its capital, excluding an overallotment option, would trade on the market following the IPO.
Elior plans to sell about of 785 million euros worth of new shares and about 60 million euros worth of shares from existing holders including Charterhouse, Chequers, Bagatelle Investissement et Management, Intermediate Capital Group and Sophia Global Investment.
The offering includes an over-allotment option of up to 15 percent of the total number of new and existing shares being sold. The price is due to be set on June 10, Elior said.
"This IPO will enable us to pursue our profitable growth strategy, based on both organic and external growth," Chief Executive Gilles Petit said in a statement.
Elior, which had sales of 5.017 billion euros in the 2012/13 fiscal year ended Sept. 30, generates 56 percent of its sales in France and has grown abroad through targeted acquisitions.
The company may spend a further 450 million euros over the next three years for acquisitions, Dubois said.
Elior has said it expects to achieve an annual 3.5 percent rate of organic sales growth from 2015 to 2017.
Including planned acquisitions, notably in the United States, Elior said on Wednesday it aimed for annual consolidated sales growth of around 7 percent during the period, an EBITDA margin of 9 percent of sales by 2017 and net debt in a range of 2.5 to 3 times EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation).
Business will be helped by a recovery in southern Europe and acquisitions in the United States, where Elior bought caterer TrustHouse Services in 2013.
For the current year ending Sept. 30, 2014, Elior targets 6.5 percent sales growth, including organic growth of 4 percent and an EBITDA margin of around 8.4 percent of sales, unchanged from the previous year.
Net debt stood at 2.18 billion euros at end-September 2013, or over three times equity.
The company was first listed in 2000 and then de-listed in 2006 when Charterhouse Capital Partners bought it for 2.5 billion euros.
The UK private equity group owns 62.4 percent of Elior, co-founder Robert Zolade has 24.7 percent and Chequers Capital holds 7.8 percent.
Elior, which employs 103,000 staff, has a contract arm, which provides catering to businesses, schools and hospitals and accounts for around two thirds of the firm's overall business. It also has a concessions business, which serves airports, railways and motorways.
($1 = 0.7345 Euros) (Additional reporting by James Regan; Editing by Andrew Callus and Jane Barid)