November 11, 2016 / 3:55 PM / 3 years ago

Swiss metals refiner Argor-Heraeus up for sale: sources

Outside view of the plant of gold refiner and bar manufacturer Argor-Heraeus SA in the southern Swiss town of Mendrisio, March 1, 2012. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener

FRANKFURT/ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss precious metals refiner Argor-Heraeus [ARGOR.UNL] has been put up for sale, sources close to the matter told Reuters, with the potential for bids to push as high as $490 million.

Investment bank HSBC (HSBA.L) has been appointed to find a buyer for the company, which refines gold, silver, platinum and palladium, two sources said on Friday, adding that possible suitors have been asked to submit final bids this month.

Argor-Heraeus is owned by its management, German multinational Heraeus, the Austrian Mint and Commerzbank (CBKG.DE). Though the sources did not give a reason for the sale, such a move would fit with Commerzbank’s drive to cut costs and offload non-core assets.

Germany’s second-biggest bank holds a 32.7 percent stake in Argor-Heraeus while the Austrian Mint owns 30 percent, according to their 2015 annual reports.

Fellow Swiss precious metals refiner Valcambi was sold to Rajesh Exports last year with a valuation of about 12 times its average core earnings. At that multiple, Argor-Heraeus would fetch up to 484 million Swiss francs ($491 million).

Argor-Heraeus is expected to post 2016 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of between 30 million francs and 40 million francs, one of the sources said.

Interested parties include many of the same Japanese trading houses that bid for Metalor Technologies International SA, a Swiss precious metals refiner bought by Japan’s Tanaka Holdings in July.

Stakeholders Heraeus, the Austrian Mint and Commerzbank all declined to comment, as did Argor-Heraeus and HSBC.

($1 = 0.9859 Swiss francs)

Additional reporting by Oliver Hirt, Joshua Franklin and Francois Murphy; Editing by David Goodman

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