| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 28 Chemical producer Solvay SA
has hired Credit Suisse Group to find a
buyer for its sulfuric acid unit and approached private equity
firms about a deal that could reach $800 million, according to
three people familiar with the matter.
An auction for the unit, referred to as eco services,
started this week, the people said. Eco services has annual
earnings of around $110 million before interest, tax,
depreciation and amortization, or EBIDTA, one of the people
Solvay said on Wednesday it would explore strategic options
for the unit but did not give more details. A Solvay spokeswoman
did not respond to a request for comment on the details of the
sale. A Credit Suisse spokesman declined to comment.
Solvay's eco service business produces and regenerates
sulfuric acid, which is used as a catalyst at refineries in the
production of high-octane gasoline.
The unit is a supplier to the largest refineries on the U.S.
West Coast, along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and in the U.S.
Midwest and Canada, according to its website. It accounted for 9
percent of Solvay's net sales of 3.13 billion euros ($4.32
billion) in 2013.
In a conference call with analysts to discuss the company's
earnings on Wednesday, Solvay Chief Executive Jean-Pierre
Clamadieu said a sale of eco services would simplify Solvay and
allow it to reallocate resources to fast-growing businesses.
"I think this business could be qualified as a cash cow or a
sustainable cash generator to use a nice terminology," Clamadieu
said about eco services.
Private equity has shown a strong appetite for unloved
divisions being carved out of companies, seeking to avoid frothy
auctions for companies amid buoyant equity capital markets.
In the chemical sector, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC last
week struck a $1.8 billion deal to buy the water technology unit
of U.S. chemical manufacturer Ashland Inc.