FRANKFURT/LONDON Private equity group IK Investment Partners is planning the sale of German-based fire extinguisher maker Minimax, which generated 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in sales last year, four people familiar with the situation said.
The private equity house, which focuses on buying mid-sized companies in Northern Europe, aims to pick advisory banks early next year with a view to launching the sale process within the first half of the year, the people added.
Minimax, which employs over 6,200 people and makes a range of fire extinguishing and detection systems, could attract U.S. technology groups Honeywell (HON.N) and United Technologies (UTX.N) as well as rival private equity groups, two of the people said.
An initial public share offer of the business is also an option, one of the people said.
A spokeswoman for IK declined to comment.
IK bought Minimax in 2006 from Investcorp for an undisclosed amount, financing the deal with 530 million euros in bank lending, according to data from Thomson Reuters LPC.
At that point the company had revenues of less than 500 million euros a year, but it has since grown considerably, taking over U.S. rival Viking Group in 2009.
It is now the world's third largest fire equipment supplier, and is market leader in the United States and China, generating the vast majority of sales from industrial fire protection systems.
The prospective sale comes at an important time for IK Investment Partners as it asks investors to back its latest buyout fund, for which it has raised about half of the 1.7 billion euros it is after.
However, recent efforts to sell companies have gone poorly. It was forced to shelve the sales of industrials firm Schenck Process, sports pitch maker Sport Group and glass manufacturer Flabeg when bids fell short of targets, people had previously said.
IK, with roots in the Nordic region, has also been at the centre of a long-running tax investigation by Sweden's Tax Agency.
Those investigations have resulted in bills for hundreds of millions of dollars in back taxes for the firm's dealmakers, including a bill and penalty of more than $100 million for IK's executive chairman Bjorn Saven.
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)