UPDATE 1-Ashland sees private equity offers for water unit pour in-sources

Tue Nov 26, 2013 5:35pm EST
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By Greg Roumeliotis and Soyoung Kim

NEW YORK Nov 26 (Reuters) - Chemicals manufacturer Ashland Inc is in talks with at least eight private equity firms about selling its water technologies unit in a deal that could top $1.5 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apollo Global Management LLC ; Bain Capital LLC; TPG Capital LP; Onex Corp ; Advent International Corp; Rhone Group LLC; Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC and Goldman Sachs Group Inc's private equity arm are among the firms through to the second round of bidding for the unit, the people said this week.

The water technologies business has earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of roughly $200 million and could fetch eight times that amount, the people said.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the auction are confidential. An Ashland spokesman declined to comment while representatives of the private equity firms either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

Ashland's water treatment business, the third largest among the company's four units, supplies chemicals to industries including pulp, paper and mining. The business also makes products such as biocides, coagulants and wood adhesives.

Under pressure from activist investor Jana Partners LLC, Ashland said in July it had asked Citigroup Inc to help review options for the water technologies unit.

Earlier this month, Ashland said that a sale process was underway and expected to wrap up in the first quarter of 2014. Ashland added that it expected to use proceeds from the sale primarily to fund share buybacks.   Continued...