April 23, 2015 / 11:00 AM / 2 years ago

Airbus moves ahead with defense electronics, other asset sales

4 Min Read

People are silhouetted past a logo of the Airbus Group during the Airbus annual news conference in Colomiers, near Toulouse January 13, 2015.Regis Duvignau

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Airbus (AIR.PA) has started approaching potential buyers for electronics and other assets it wants to sell to focus its defense division on warplanes, missiles, launchers and satellites, three sources familiar with the matter said.

Europe's largest aerospace group hopes to attract private equity buyers for defense electronics businesses such as radar, optronics and avionics supplies, as well as for part of its satellite communications unit, the people said.

Separately, Airbus has begun contacting potential buyers of jetliner supplier PFW, which it rescued in 2011, they added.

Europe's defense industry is struggling as cash-strapped governments cut military spending, and the asset sales are part of efforts announced by Airbus last year to sell half a dozen businesses with combined annual revenues of around 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion).

The move breaks with its previous efforts to diversify into security activities and halts investment in defense electronics, in which it lacks the scale of rivals.

Airbus has asked investment bank Evercore (EVR.N) to organize the sale of some electronics businesses with combined sales of about 1 billion euros and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of roughly 80-100 million euros, the sources said.

These units specialize in radars for surveillance purposes, in avionics solutions -- for example helping pilots to fly in fog or at night -- and in optronics such as telescopes.

Information packets on the units, which could sell for 800 million to 1 billion euros, will go out to potential bidders within the next couple of weeks, the sources said.

Buyout groups such as Carlyle, Bridgepoint, Apax, CVC and KKR are expected to be interested, they added.

Separately, Airbus has asked Lazard (LAZ.N) to find a buyer for the commercial part of its satellite-communications services unit Vizada, while intending to keep the government satellite-communications services business. Airbus bought the whole business from Apax for $960 million in 2011.

Additionally, investment banking boutique Moelis is running the sale of Fairchild Controls, a small asset left over from Lagardere's 1989 acquisition of the defense and space activities of Fairchild Industries. Lagardere later helped to found EADS, last year renamed Airbus Group.

In yet another transaction, Airbus has asked buyout groups and peers to bid for PFW Aerospace in a potential 300-500 million euro deal, the sources said.

The German company, which supplies jetliner parts to both Airbus and Boeing, was always seen as a temporary part of Airbus, and the sale indicates concerns over this part of its supply chain have eased.

Airbus' units ESG, Atlas Elektronik and AvDef also remain up for sale, while the group last month sold its aerospace engineering business Rostock System Technik (RST) to German peer Ferchau Engineering.

Airbus confirmed a part of Vizada was up for sale, but declined to comment on other divestments. Potential bidders and the banks declined to comment, except for Moelis, Carlyle, CVC and KKR which were not immediately available.

Additional reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter

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