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Blackstone in talks to buy majority stake in Comstar

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-10-2017 Reghu Balakrishnan

Mumbai: Blackstone Group LP is set to buy a majority stake in Comstar Automotive Technologies Pvt. Ltd in a transaction that values the auto parts maker at $140-150 million (Rs1,000 crore), two people aware of the discussions said.

Discussions between Blackstone and Chennai-based Comstar’s controlling shareholders—private equity firm Argyle Street Management and the Chandaria family—have entered the final stage, one of the two people cited above said on condition of anonymity.

Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative asset manager, with $371 billion worth of assets under management, previously owned another Indian auto parts maker Agile Electric Sub Assembly Pvt. Ltd, which it sold in 2015.

“India is set to move to Bharat Stage-VI emission norms from 2020, which has made the component industry pump in investments for research and development activities, increasing the investment focus by private equity and strategic players,” said Mahesh Singhi, managing director, Singhi Advisors.

India’s automobile industry is racing to meet Bharat Stage-VI emission norms by 2020, which will mean stricter emission standards that are on par with those in the US and European Union (EU).

The move is aimed at curbing pollution in India, which is home to half of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, according to a 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) report.

Kotak Mahindra Capital Co. Ltd is advising Comstar on the transaction, the person said, adding another contender CX Partners, which joined hands with a Delhi-based company named NRB solutions for the deal, has ended talks.

CX Partners was in advanced talks for the Comstar stake, Mint reported in August.

Emails sent to spokespersons for Comstar, Argyle and CX Partners went unanswered while a Blackstone spokesperson declined to comment.

Japanese car maker Mitsubishi Motors was also in unsuccessful discussions with Comstar to acquire a controlling stake, said the second person.

Comstar, a manufacturer of starter motors, starter motor kits and alternators for automotive applications, was founded in 1999 as a subsidiary of Visteon Corp., a unit of Ford Motor Co. in India.

Comstar was sold to Hong Kong-based Argyle Street Management and the Chandaria family in 2007. The Chandaria family holds its stake in Comstar through its holding company Leticia Investments. The two firms—Argyle and Leticia—hold equal stakes in the auto parts maker.

Comstar has an installed capacity of over 3.8 million starter motors and 1 million alternators in India and 800,000 starter motors in North America till date. It has partnerships Ford Motor, Volvo, Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland-Nissan, Renault Nissan, Geely, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Mazda as customers, according to Comstar Automotive’s website.

The company has manufacturing facilities in Chennai and Tecumseh in the US, employing more than 900 employees, it said.

Blackstone previous investment in India’s automobile parts industry was through its buyout of Agile Electric Sub Assembly, the largest manufacturer of DC motors in the country in 2013.

The business was sold to Igarashi Electric Works Ltd of Japan and MAPE Advisory Group Pvt. Ltd in 2015.

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