September 29, 2016 / 1:20 PM / 4 years ago

Safran in exclusive talks to sell Morpho to Advent

The Logo of a Safran propulsion systems maker is pictured in Paris, France, August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

PARIS (Reuters) - Safran has entered exclusive talks about the sale of its Morpho identity and security business to Advent International, which owns smartcard maker Oberthur Technologies, the French aerospace and defense firm said on Thursday.

The potential sale of Morpho to Advent would value the business at 2.425 billion euros ($2.7 billion) and result in a pre-tax capital gain, partially state-owned Safran said in a statement.

Advent was on a shortlist of bidders reported to include digital security firm Gemalto and three funds: Bain Capital, CVC Capital Partners and KKR.

With technology and jobs in France at stake, the outcome of the contest was politically sensitive, especially given the backdrop of a row over the planned closure of a plant operated by Alstom, another partially state-owned French champion.

Safran said the business it is selling had revenue of 1.6 billion euros in 2015 and employs 7,800 people.

Advent plans to merge the biometric identification business with Oberthur, which it bought in 2011, to create a group headquartered in France with 2.8 billion euros in revenue.

Leading research and development and production capacities will also stay in France, said Safran, which was advised by Lazard along with Athena Capital Partners and Societe Generale.

French state bank Bpifrance will take a stake in the identification business and join the board.

For Safran, the deal completes its refocusing on core aerospace activities after it agreed earlier this year to sell Morpho Detection, which makes explosives detection equipment, to British engineering firm Smiths Group.

Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by David Clarke

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