Exclusive: KKR close to buying Gardner Denver - sources

Private equity firm KKR & Co LP is nearing a deal to buy industrial machinery maker Gardner Denver Inc and could announce the agreement in the next few days, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The two parties have been negotiating a final deal price and other last-minute details over the past week, after KKR bid $75 per share, or nearly $3.7 billion, for Gardner Denver, on February 21, the people said.

Shares of Gardner Denver, which were down 1 percent on Monday before the news, rose 3.6 percent to $73.62 on the New York Stock Exchange, valuing the company at around $3.6 billion.

The final price could not be learned, but Gardner Denver's board sought a higher price from the buyout firm, the people familiar with the matter said.

Negotiations are continuing and could still fall apart, said the people, who asked not to be named because the matter is not public. Representatives for KKR declined to comment. Gardner Denver could not be immediately reached for comment.

Gardner Denver, which makes compressors, pumps and vacuum products for industrial uses, decided to put it up for sale late last year following months of pressure from activist investor ValueAct Capital LLC, which acquired a roughly 5 percent stake.

ValueAct has said that it supports KKR's reported offer of $75 per share, noting that the price represented a premium of 44 percent over the company's share price on July 26, when it wrote to the company's board urging it to explore a sale.

KKR has been in the pole position to buy Gardner Denver after other private equity bidders who initially took part in the auction abandoned the process ahead of the February 21 deadline for final bids, people familiar with the matter have said.

This followed the collapse of Gardner Denver's advanced negotiations in December with industry peer SPX Corp over a deal at $85 per share, people familiar with the matter told Reuters at the time. The proposed deal fell apart partly because of backlash from SPX shareholders who questioned the logic of such a merger.

SPX's reported $85 per share bid, which was seen as an aggressive price, also promoted prominent activist investor Relational Investors LLC to acquire a stake and agitate for change at SPX.

(Reporting by Soyoung Kim and Greg Roumeliotis in New York, Editing by Bernard Orr)