Suez targets industrial water with $3.4 billion GE Water deal

PARIS (Reuters) - French waste and water group Suez has boosted its industrial water treatment business with the 3.2 billion euros ($3.4 billion) acquisition of GE Water from General Electric GE.N.

The deal will give Suez access to most major industries globally, including food and beverage, oil and gas, power, mining, pharmaceuticals, and micro-electronics and will make it a supplier to blue-chip companies such as Exxon-Mobil, Total, Shell, BASF, Nestle, Cargill, Intel, Samsung and Pfizer.

Chief Executive Jean-Louis Chaussade told reporters on Wednesday the industrial water market was more important than Suez’s traditional municipal water market, because industry accounts for 15-20 percent of global water consumption compared with just 5-8 percent for human consumption in cities.

In an all-cash deal, Suez SEVI.PA and Canadian fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) will acquire 100 percent of GE Water's equity and debt through a 70/30 joint venture, to which Suez will contribute its existing industrial water activities. The new business will operate under the Suez brand.

The business will have revenue of about 2 billion euros, compared with Suez’s 2016 revenue of 15.3 billion euros, and will employ 10,000 people, of which 7,500 will come from GE.

The industrial water market is worth about 95 billion euros globally and grows about 5 percent per year, Chaussade said.

Chaussade said there had been several rounds of bidding for GE Water, but believed that in the third and final round it was up against U.S. fund Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.

Suez has secured bridge financing for the deal, and may refinance it with a 750 million euro capital increase.

Its main shareholders, Engie ENGIE.PA, CriteriaCaixa and Caltagirone Group, have confirmed their intention to participate in the capital increase for their pro-rata share, Suez said.

Lead shareholder Engie said the cost of subscribing to the full extent of its 32.6 percent stake would be 240 million euros.

Suez finance chief Christophe Cross said that once the deal was finalised, probably early in the third quarter, Suez would prepare a capital increase.

Suez will also issue a 1.1 billion euro long-term senior bond and 600 million worth of hybrid bonds. CDPQ will contribute 700 million euros of equity to the venture.

Chaussade said Suez expected 200 million euros of revenue synergies per year in the group’s water business, but had not included possible synergies between water and waste.

“Cross-selling between our water and waste units will be reinforced, as clients increasingly want environment services that include water and waste treatment,” he said.

In the past 12 months, Suez shares have fallen about 13 percent, making them the second-worst performer in the Stoxx European Utilities index .SX6P after bigger peer Veolia VIE.PA, whose shares are down about 22 percent.

Both firms are trying to diversify into industrial water as their traditional European water business stagnates.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Adrian Croft and Mark Potter