HONG KONG - Asimco Technologies, an automotive components maker founded by Wall Street veteran Jack Perkowski in Beijing 15 years ago, is up for sale in a deal that could fetch over $200 million, people involved in the potential deal said on Tuesday.
Asimco is currently the largest independent manufacturer of automotive and heavy-duty truck components in China. It became famous following the publication of Tim Clissold's best-selling book, Mr. China, which was based on Perkowski's experiences in the country.
U.S. boutique investment bank Houlihan Lokey has been hired to advise on the sale and about 15 global private equity funds including the Carlyle Group and TPG Capital are reviewing the company's books, said the people who had direct knowledge of the situation.
One dealmaker, who had reviewed the books but not decided whether to bid, said it would be a good opportunity for private equity funds to control a manufacturing industry leader in China where buyout deals for foreign investors remain rare.
Like our competitors, we're reviewing the situation and I think you will see a quite tough bidding war for this asset, the person said.
All of those contacted declined to be identified as the sale process is confidential. Asimco declined to comment.
Asimco, which produces dozens of components widely ranging from piston rings to alternators and operates 900 service stations across China, is now controlled by a U.S. private equity fund Key Principal Partners (KPP).
KPP, based in Cleveland, Ohio, led a $100 million investment in Asimco in March 2004 and later won control of the company, which has regional offices in the United States, Europe and Japan for its non-Chinese corporate clients.
Perkowski, who ran Paine Webber's investment banking business before becoming a partner in an investment firm backed by billionaire John Kluge, a U.S. television industry mogul, first went to Hong Kong in late 1991 and later decided to invest in China's then-infant automotive industry.
Asimco was launched by Perkowski in 1994 in Beijing as one of the first few foreign direct investments in the capital city. Now the company, still headquartered in Beijing, has sales of more than $500 million, according to its company website.
The Chinese auto industry has a long way to go, Perkowski told an audience at Yale University in March 2008, according to a script posted on the school's website.
As big as you think the Chinese market is, he said, It's bigger.
Global carmakers such as Volkswagen (VOWG.DE) and General Motors are stepping up their presence in China, which has overtaken the United States as the world's largest auto market this year.
For example, Volkswagen said on Sunday it plans to more than triple its sales in southern China by 2018
In January, Perkowski resigned as chairman of Asimco to start a new merchants banking firm, JFP Holdings, with a focus on China. It's unclear whether Perkowski still holds a stake in Asimco.
(Editing by Ken Wills)