Volkswagen in talks over $3 bln deal for Europcar

A consortium led by German automaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) is in advanced talks to buy Europcar (EUCAR.PA) in a deal that would value the French car rental company’s equity at about 2.5 billion euros ($3 billion).

Europcar confirmed on Tuesday it was discussing a potential offer at around 0.50 euros per share, after sources earlier said that Volkswagen had rekindled talks and was honing in on a deal.

A previous 0.44 euro per share offer from Volkswagen and investors Attestor and Pon Holdings was rebuffed by Europcar’s hedge fund owners at the end of June.

Europcar said the same group of investors was involved in the new approach.

“There is no certainty as to the outcome of these discussions and the company will keep the market informed promptly,” it added.

A tie-up could be announced as soon as Wednesday if talks about an agreement in principal are successful, two sources said.

They said the price could still evolve or include sweetener clauses if acceptance levels reach a certain threshold. One of the sources said the companies’ boards were due to meet separately on Wednesday.

Volkswagen declined to comment, as did Anchorage, the lead fund that took control of Europcar last year along with other investment firms.

The European leader in car rentals, which was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic as international travel ground to a halt, will release first-half results on Wednesday after the market close. Volkswagen’s first-half earnings are due on Thursday.

Volkswagen, which has owned Europcar in the past, said at the end of June it was considering buying a majority stake in the French company, as it seeks to tap into the trend for consumers to rent rather than own a vehicle.

Its proposal was deemed too low by the funds that control the Paris-based company. Investment funds Anchorage, Attestor, Diameter, King Street Capital and Marathon agreed to shrink Europcar’s debt load in exchange for equity last November.

Volkswagen sold the company to French financial investor Eurazeo (EURA.PA) in 2006 for 3.3 billion euros, including debt.

But industry sources have said it could now find value in using Europcar’s network of rental stations to help it become a broader provider of different transport options, especially at a time when it is pivoting towards electric vehicles.

“(…) it could be a strategic move to place BEVs (battery electric vehicles) and achieve its fleet CO2 average objectives,” Kepler analysts said in a note in June.

Europcar’s revenues plunged 45% in 2020 when the pandemic hit, and it fell to a 645 million euros net loss.

Its shares are up 10% this year, lifted by the prospect of a progressive easing of global travel restrictions.

($1 = 0.8452 euros)