December 4, 2017 / 5:41 PM / 12 days ago

Investors line up for Germany's Techem, which could fetch $5 billion: sources

LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Canadian pension funds and private equity investors are lining up to buy German metering company Techem with a multi-billion euro sale expected to launch in early 2018, sources familiar with the matter said.

Canadian pension fund Caisse de depot et Placement du Quebec (CDPQ) and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) have teamed up to bid, while private equity groups Partners Group and CVC are also interested in the asset, sources said.

Australian infrastructure investor Macquarie MQG.AX started preparations to sell the business more than a year ago, but the sale of CVC’s Ista, a larger metering asset, got in ahead.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board teamed up with Blackstone BX.N to buy Ista but lost out in July to Hong Kong’s CK Infrastructure 1038.HK.

One banker said that as valuations are rising, the Australian investor will not rush to sell Techem, which supplies energy invoicing and energy management in buildings. Applying Ista’s sale multiple would imply an enterprise value of almost 4 billion euros ($4.7 billion).

Macquarie, CVC, CDPQ and Partners Group declined to comment. OTPP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As asset valuations have gone up in the private equity industry, buyout funds have looked to “core plus” infrastructure assets, competing with pension, infrastructure and sovereign wealth funds which typically go for less risk and lower returns.

Macquarie fought hard to win Techem in a hostile takeover battle in 2006. After a year-long struggle with hedge funds and private equity companies it prevailed to buy the company in 2007 for 1.5 billion euros.

Techem is held in Macquarie’s European Infrastructure Fund 2, established in 2006, which has been fully invested since 2010 and is nearing the end of its duration. Buyout groups typically hold companies for 3-5 years before selling them.

British masts company Arqiva is in the same fund and its efforts to find a new owner earlier this year collapsed, as did its subsequent move to float on the London stock exchange: it canceled its IPO last month.

In July, Techem refinanced 1.75 billion euros of loans that comprised a 1.6 billion euro term loan and a 150 million euro revolving credit facility.

In an unusual move, the loan was offered with portability, which allows for a loan to stay in place in the event of a sale instead of triggering a loan repayment, something more commonly seen in the bond market.

Portability can make a company more attractive to buy as it gives potential buyers comfort that financing is in place.

Macquarie had asked JP Morgan JPM.N, Deutsche Bank DBKGn.DE and its own investment banking unit to organize the divestment last year, Reuters reported.

In its fiscal year to March 2017, Techem reported adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 319.9 million euros on sales of 782.7 million euros.

Techem was founded in 1952 and has around 3,640 employees at 60 locations in Germany and at foreign subsidiaries.

Additional reporting by Pamela Barbaglia and Claire Ruckin in London; Editing by Susan Fenton

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