Acteon sale to KKR is fillip for private equity

Private equity group First Reserve has sold UK offshore oil and gas services group Acteon to rival KKR , one of two European deals on Monday to fan hopes that private equity firms can still make profitable sales.

The other deal was for Ixetic, a manufacturer of hydraulic and vacuum pumps in automobiles. Motion Equity Partners - formerly known as Cognetas - said that it had sold Ixetic to auto parts group Magna International Inc for 308 million euros ($396 million).

Both sales come at a tough time for private equity houses, as difficult trading outlooks for companies and volatile debt markets thwart many private equity auctions, including the sale of frozen foods group Iglo and engineering company Schenck Process .

Texas-based private equity firm White Deer Energy will take a minority stake in Acteon alongside KKR, with the remainder of the company owned by management, the groups said.

No financial details were disclosed but two people familiar with the situation said the deal valued the company at 800 million to 900 million pounds ($1.3 billion to $1.45 billion).

Acteon, which provides subsea services, has quadrupled operating profits over the past six years as its business has grown internationally and explorers have moved into deeper waters.

First Reserve bought a 52 percent stake in Acteon in 2006 for 70 million pounds, meaning that the value of its stake has increased more than five times.

Motion Equity said it had made 2.2 times its original equity investment in Ixetic. The German business, which has opened new manufacturing plants in Bulgaria and China since its 2006 purchase, increased sales to 300 million euros in 2011.

KKR and its rivals have been targeting the energy sector, hoping to capitalize on the move to new energy sources.

KKR bought U.S. oil and gas company Samson last year, in 2011's second-largest leveraged buyout, while rival Apollo Global Management led a consortium to buy El Paso Corp's oil and gas exploration business in February.

J.P. Morgan Cazenove and Simmons & Company International jointly advised First Reserve and Acteon while HSBC advised KKR. Rothschild advised Motion Equity Partners on the sale of Ixetic.

(Reporting by Simon Meads; Editing by Greg Mahlich and David Goodman)