Oerlikon Said to Explore Options for Advanced Technologies Unit

OC Oerlikon Group, the Swiss maker of textile machinery and car gears, is exploring strategic options including a possible sale for its Advanced Technologies unit, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company started preparing the division, which makes manufacturing equipment for semiconductor components and optical disks, to operate outside of Oerlikon last year and is now marketing the business, one of the people said. Burkhard Boendel, a spokesman for Pfaeffikon-based Oerlikon, said the company doesn’t comment on speculation.

The Advanced Technologies unit had earnings before interest and taxes of 7 million Swiss francs ($7.6 million) last year and generated sales of 103 million francs with 188 employees, according to Oerlikon’s annual report. Its peers in the market include Applied Materials Inc., Lam Research Corp., Singulus Technologies AG and Ulvac Inc.

Oerlikon is seeking a new chief executive officer after the March departure of Michael Buscher, who led a focus towards more profitable businesses such as coatings for airplanes and car parts. The company in December announced the sale of natural-fibers and textile-components units with an enterprise value of 650 million francs to Chinese investor Pan Xueping’s Jinsheng Group.

‘Shaping the Business’

A potential sale of the Advanced Technologies unit “would be positive, and would further build up Oerlikon’s cash position,” said Benjamin Glaeser, an analyst with Berenberg Bank in London. “It’s another step in shaping the business, after they have disposed of other parts already.”

The Advanced Technologies unit may have an enterprise value of about 72 million francs, based on about 5 times predicted 2013 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, Glaeser said.

Oerlikon could raise 1.2 billion Swiss francs for takeovers if needed, former Chief Buscher said March 5, adding that the company is “much more flexible” for acquisitions this year and would focus on adding to its coating and vacuum units. Chief Financial Officer Juerg Fedier is leading the company on an interim basis while Oerlikon’s board searches for a new CEO.

Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, the world’s 54th richest man, is the largest shareholder of Oerlikon. His influence over Oerlikon increased after the supervisory board was reduced from seven to six members in April and three of them, including Chairman Tim Summers, continue to represent his Renova Group of companies.

Oerlikon has risen 8.2 percent in Swiss trading this year, valuing the company at 3.7 billion francs. The benchmark Swiss Market Index gained 13 percent in the same period.

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