Swiss engineering company ABB was near an agreement on Sunday to acquire U.S. manufacturer Thomas & Betts Corp for about $4 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
An agreement could be announced as soon as Monday, although the talks could still fall apart, the paper said on its website, citing the same unnamed sources.
ABB, which makes products used by oil, mining and utility companies, was not immediately available to comment.
Memphis-based Thomas & Betts makes electrical components for industrial companies in the United States, Canada and Europe. It has a market capitalization of roughly $3 billion.
Zurich-headquartered ABB has been on a buying spree for the past two years and analysts have kept a close eye on the size of its war chest to see where it might pounce next.
Under the leadership of Chief Executive Joe Hogan, it returned to the M&A market after a lengthy absence, buying industrial motor business Baldor Electric for $4.2 billion in 2010, among other deals.
ABB had net cash of some $1 billion at the end of the third quarter. Acquisitions could potentially add another 3 to 4 percent to its overall growth rate, although in November, Hogan ruled out emptying its war chest for one single target.
Hogan has said ABB still had gaps in the United States and in the market for Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) -- small equipment control devices.
Thomas & Betts, which competes with companies like Cooper Industries and Hubbell Inc , makes products ranging from connectors for cables to heating and ventilation products.
The company sells many of its products to U.S. utilities, which are expected to increase their spending over the next several years to build new transmission and distribution lines and bring older plants in line with new environmental regulations.
The core electrical manufacturers of Thomas & Betts, Hubbell and Cooper are the best way to play the increasing (transmission & distribution) spending we expect over the next couple years, Barclays analyst Scott Davis said in a research note last week.
It had sales of about $2 billion in 2010 and is scheduled to report its 2011 and fourth-quarter results on Monday. The company could not be immediately reached for comment.
In 2011, ABB, which competes with France's Schneider and Germany's Siemens , bought Australian software company Mincom, having in 2010 spent more than $1 billion on U.S. software company Ventyx.
(Reporting by; Joseph A. Giannone, additional reporting by Catherine Bosley; Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Marguerita Choy)