* GTT is world’s top maker of hull lining for LNG ships
* IPO could value GTT at up to $2.4 billion
* Les Echos said IPO planned for February 2014 (Adds details about GTT valuation and market position)
PARIS, Nov 18 (Reuters) - French utility GDF Suez, oil firm Total and private equity fund Hellman & Friedman plan a February IPO for their jointly-owned unit GTT, the world’s No. 1 maker of cryogenic hull linings for LNG tankers, French financial daily Les Echos said on Monday.
Sources told Reuters in June that GTT’s shareholders were planning an IPO that could value the business at up to $2.4 billion.
GDF Suez, which is a major LNG shipper and leading shareholder of Gaztransport & Technigaz (GTT) with a 40 percent stake, declined to comment.
Total and H&F - which each own 30 percent of GTT - and GTT were not immediately available for comment. The paper said shareholders had not yet decided how much of their stakes they wanted to sell.
A source familiar with one of the shareholders told Reuters in June that shareholders would formally lodge a request to go public with the French authorities in the second half. The same source said GTT had been valued at between 1.3 and 1.8 billion euros ($1.8 to $2.4 billion).
GTT, based in a leafy suburb west of Paris, has 70 percent of the market for the high-tech alloy membranes that line the hulls of the world’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers.
Its main customers are Korean and Chinese shipbuilders who pay GTT up to $10 million per ship. GTT says it has equipped about 240 of the world’s LNG carriers, which cost about $220 million apiece.
GTT and Norwegian competitor Moss Maritime have a virtual duopoly on the lucrative niche market, despite attempts by Korean shipbuilders to develop their own cryogenic technology.
Last year, a consortium of Korean shipbuilders - which have a near-monopoly on LNG tankers - was reported to consider a bid for GTT to prevent a Chinese rival from challenging their domination of the global LNG carrier market.
GTT lines the inside of tanker hulls with thin nickel-iron sheeting and insulation layers that contain the LNG, frozen at minus 163 Celsius (-261 Fahrenheit). Moss, part of Italy’s ENI-Saipem group, stores LNG in thick aluminium spherical tanks that give its LNG carriers their distinctive bulbous shape.
GTT last year earned a net profit of 30 million euros on sales of 90 million and expects turnover to more than double this year to 200 million euros ($271 million). ($1 = 0.7394 euros) (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)