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Savare family to sell stake in business

By Rashmi Kumar

The family behind French chip card maker Oberthur is in talks to sell part of the business to outside investors, in an attempt to fund a bid to purchase a UK company.

According to the Financial Times, the Savare family, which currently owns 92% of the maker of SIM cards and electronic passports, plans to retain a 40% stake and sell the remaining to private equity bidders.

The FT reported that US groups Advent International and One Equity Partners are the frontrunners to buy the 60% stake in the business, estimated to be worth around €600 million. When contacted, a spokeswoman for Oberthur was unable to offer any additional information.

The move by the French family comes as it looks to re-launch a bid to purchase UK banknote printing company De La Rue.

Last October Oberthur made a €1 billion offer for De La Rue but it was rejected. If the private equity deal goes ahead, Oberthur is likely to have the cash to up its offer on De La Rue.

Oberthur was founded in 1842 as a printing company by Francois-Charles Oberthur. His son Jean-Pierre Savare took over the security printing activity in 1984 and renamed the company Oberthur Technologies.

Savare also purchased a controlling stake in Paris rugby club Stade Francais last month, in a move to protect the club from bankruptcy.

He is currently chairman of the board of Oberthur, while third-generation Thomas Savare is chief executive. The company had 2010 revenues of €979 million.