Exclusive: Former Honeywell CEO in bid talks for Vertiv - sources

FILE PHOTO: David Cote, chairman and chief executive of Honeywell, speaks during The Economist's Buttonwood Gathering in New York October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

(Reuters) - A company led by former Honeywell International Inc HON.N chief executive David Cote and backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N is in talks to acquire U.S. backup power equipment firm Vertiv for more than $5 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.

Cote's firm, GS Acquisition Holdings Corp GSAH_u.N, is a so-called special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which raised $690 million in an initial public offering last year to buy a company without telling investors in advance what that would be.

GS Acquisition could use the money it raised in the IPO, in addition to debt financing, to acquire Vertiv from private equity firm Platinum Equity. The negotiations are ongoing, and there is no certainty a deal will be reached, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential. Vertiv has also drawn interest from other potential bidders, one of the sources added.

Vertiv declined to comment. Representatives for Platinum Equity and Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Cote could not be immediately reached for comment.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Vertiv manufactures systems and provides maintenance for backup power and other safety systems to data centers, communication networks, and commercial and industrial environments.

Vertiv is the former network power business of Emerson Electric EMR.N, which Platinum Equity acquired three years ago for about $4 billion, in one of the largest deals the Los Angeles-based buyout firm had ever completed. Emerson kept a minority interest in the company, according to a statement at the time.

In 2017, Platinum agreed to sell Vertiv's automatic transfer switch business to Schneider Electric SCHN.PA for $1.25 billion.

Reuters reported last year that Platinum Equity was exploring a sale of Vertiv with advice from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N.

Cote served as Honeywell’s CEO between 2002 and 2017. He is now leading Goldman’s first SPAC, as the investment bank seeks to expand its asset management division.

Reporting by Rebecca Spalding and Mike Spector in New York, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien