Infineon, Europe’s second largest maker of computer chips, has become a takeover target for several leveraged buy-out groups, potentially making it the first German blue chip company to be taken off the stock market.
People familiar with the situation told FT Deutschland, the FT’s sister paper, that talks had so far foundered on Infineon executives’ refusal to back a bid, although some potential buyers still hoped for a change of heart.
The revelation will confirm the view of many executives in Germany that it is only a matter of time until a big public-to-private deal is struck. This is heightening fears in Berlin about the political fallout of job cuts that would likely follow.
With an Infineon market capitalisation of about €8bn ($10.4bn), a take-over would easily be the biggest private equity deal Germany has seen and would consequently send a warning shot across the bows of the other members of the 30-strong group that make up the Dax index.
Private equity groups have unsuccessfully circled car component maker Continental, truck maker MAN, and gasses group Linde. However, some seem to hope Infineon might yet be the first blue chip to be bought out by a private equity group.
A person familiar with the Munich-based chipmaker said “at least three” buy-out teams had approached Infineon in the past six months although a spokesman told FTD he was not aware of “any approaches or offers”.
Infineon “management does not want” a deal, one person familiar with the situation told FTD. But some potential bidders hoped “something might still be possible this year” although none wanted to go hostile.
FTD said interested groups included CVC Capital Partners, KKR and Silver Lake Partners, a firm specialising in technology groups, said to have tried to buy a stake in Infineon from parent Siemens four years ago.
Wolfgang Ziebart, Infineon’s chief executive, is said to be intent on restructuring the company without help from private equity investors. He is trying to make earnings more dependable in a notoriously cyclical business.
To reduce its exposure to the low-price memory chip market, Infineon in August floated 14 percent of memory chip unit Qimonda on the New York Stock Exchange. It plans to reduce its stake further in coming years.