* Aibel chairman, Ferd board member Lunder: deal on track
* Aibel sale or IPO has attracted strong interest
* Sources say sale most likely path
* Lunder says still “keeping our options open”
By Victoria Klesty and Quentin Webb
OSLO/LONDON, May 6 (Reuters) - Privately held Norwegian oil services provider Aibel plans to decide by June whether to sell the company or pursue an initial public offering (IPO), Chairman Jo Lunder told Reuters on Friday.
“The Aibel process is on plan and there is strong interest in the market,” Lunder said.
“We expect to decide between the IPO track or trade sale before the summer starts,” he said. Norway’s summer holidays run from June to end-August.
Lunder said in January there had been global interest in the firm, and that an IPO was “the main road.” [ID:nLDE70J1M6]
However, two people familiar with the matter said an auction now was the most likely option.
One of the people added that potential buyers could include larger rivals such as John Wood Group (WG.L) and major Nordic private equity firms. The region’s biggest buyout firms include Sweden’s Nordic Capital and EQT.
“The IPO market is very strong, and we are keeping our options open and are still considering both tracks,” Lunder said.
Over the past two months three oil services companies have held public offerings in Oslo, raising roughly $1.4 billion, as higher oil prices boosted demand. Two more IPOs are on the way.
But the most recent, Sevan Drilling SEVDR.OL, debuted at less than half the price that its debt-laden parent, Sevan Marine, had originally sought. The Brent oil price LCOc1 has also dropped 13 percent to $110 a barrel from 2011 highs hit in early April.
One analyst said in January that companies with similar businesses which could potentially be interested in acquiring Aibel included Aker Solutions ASA AKSO.OL, AMEC AMEC.L and Petrofac (PFC.L).
Aibel, owned by private equity firms Ferd and Herkules, provides engineering and construction services for the oil and gas industry, with the majority of its business in Norway. Last November, it said it expected 2010 operating revenues around 7 billion crowns ($1.2 billion).
Goldman Sachs (GS.N) is advising Aibel. (Editing by David Cowell)