September 17, 2019 / 5:21 PM / a month ago

Exclusive: Buyout firm CD&R pursues bid with PPG for Buffett-backed Axalta - sources

(Reuters) - Buyout firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC is in talks to partner with U.S. paint maker PPG Industries Inc to make an acquisition offer for Axalta Coating Systems Inc, the U.S. coatings company whose largest shareholder is Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Berkshire Hathaway shareholders walk by a video screen at the company's annual meeting in Omaha May 4, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

The bid would come three months after Axalta said it would explore a sale. It would allow PPG to overcome potential antitrust hurdles it would face were it to buy the entirety of Axalta, and only take on businesses it deems complementary.

CD&R and PPG are discussing forming a consortium to bid for Axalta with other investors that include Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC and U.S. asset manager BlackRock Inc, one of the sources said.

Other private equity firms are also interested in Axalta, which has a market capitalization of $7.3 billion and long-term debt of close to $4 billion, three sources said. Some of them have also been looking for partners. Buyout firm Platinum Equity LLC, for example, has been in talks about partnering with Koch Industries Inc on a bid for Axalta, one of the sources said, cautioning that it is possible such a bid does not materialize.

The auction process for Axalta is ongoing and there is no certainty any deal will be reached, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

Axalta, PPG, CD&R and Platinum Equity declined to comment. GIC, BlackRock and Koch Industries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Axalta’s coatings are used in the refinishing of cars, buildings and pipelines. Its corporate peers include Sherwin-Williams Co, Akzo Nobel NV, BASF SE and RPM International Inc.

Axalta rebuffed acquisition approaches in 2017 from Akzo Nobel and Nippon Paint Holdings Co Ltd. PPG is currently on an acquisition spree, snapping up smaller coatings companies.

Axalta also got new management in December, following an investigation of previous Chief Executive Officer Terrence Hahn’s conduct by external counsel that Axalta characterized as “inconsistent with the company’s policies.” Axalta never disclosed the investigation’s findings. Hahn was replaced with the company’s chief financial officer, Robert Bryant.

Berkshire Hathaway had a 10.4% stake in Axalta as of the end of June. An activist hedge fund, Jana Partners LLC, is also an Axalta shareholder, with a 2.5% stake as of the end of June, according to regulatory filings.

Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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