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One Equity Said to Favor $1.4 Billion IPO of Austria Metall

One Equity Partners LLC plans to pursue an initial public offering of its Austria Metall GmbH unit that may value the aluminum maker at as much as 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion), according to four people with knowledge of the matter.

The decision to sell shares in Austria Metall on the Vienna Stock Exchange was made yesterday and may be announced as early as today, said two of the people, who declined to be identified because the plan isn’t public. The owners of the company, also known as AMAG, weighed offers from at least three potential buyers, the people said.

The IPO would begin as soon as April and value the company from 800 million euros to 1 billion euros, the people said. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and BNP Paribas are advising, they said. The option of selling the company would remain open should the IPO process not go well, two of the people said.

Companies are preparing public offerings in Austrian capital as the country’s benchmark ATX index has doubled from its near six-year low in March 2009. Constantia Industries AG is planning to sell shares in its Isovoltaic solar unit to the public this year, two people with knowledge of the discussions said in January. The IPOs would be the first on the Vienna exchange since construction company Strabag SE went public in October 2007.

One Equity, JPMorgan’s buyout arm, was weighing a sale or an IPO for Austria Metall people with knowledge of the process said in January.

Company Split

Funds advised by One Equity took control of Austria Metall when it bought Constantia Packaging AG last year. Constantia Packaging owns 90 percent of the aluminum group, with a trust of Austria Metall’s employees holding the remainder. Constantia Packaging and Constantia Industries were split when their owner Herbert Turnauer died in 2000. His daughter inherited Constantia Packaging, while his son got Constantia Industries.

Spokesmen for One Equity and Constantia Packaging declined to comment yesterday. A spokesman for Austria Metall didn’t answer an e-mail outside of typical office hours.

Norsk Hydro ASA was among companies that weighed acquiring Austria Metall, the people said. Norsk Hydro Chief Executive Officer Svein Richard Brandtzaeg said on Feb. 16 that the Austrian aluminum maker was on his “radar.”

“We are, of course, following the business very closely in the industry, but for this specific issue we have no comment,” said Erik Brynhildsbakken, a spokesman for Norsk Hydro, over the phone from Oslo yesterday.

In 2009, Austria Metall had sales of 517.4 million euros and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 108 million euros, Constantia Packaging said in its annual report.

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