Blackstone, Callaway Eye Fortune Brands Deal

Buyout giant the Blackstone Group is teaming up with Callaway Golf Co. for a possible bid for Fortune Brands‘ golf business, Reuters reported. The deal could reach as high as $1 billion, Reuters said. Final bids for the auction are due May 9.

(Reuters) – Blackstone Group LP (BX.N) is teaming up with Callaway Golf Co (ELY.N) for a possible bid for Fortune Brands Inc’s (FO.N) golf business, two sources familiar with the matter said.

A deal could be worth up to $1 billion, one of those sources said. Final bids for the auction, which has attracted interest from Asian bidders, are due on May 9, that source added.

The company announced plans late last year to sell or spin off its golf business, which makes Titleist golf equipment, and spin off its home products business, which makes Simonton windows and Moen faucets, amid pressure from activist investor William Ackman.

“If you look at the size of their (Callaway’s) balance sheet, market cap and their cash flows, they would need a partner,” the source said.

Like any other auctions, joint partners may or may not decide to proceed with final bids.

The golf unit, which also makes FootJoy shoes and gloves, had revenue of $1.24 billion and operating income of about $80.2 million last year. It had about $100 million in cash flow last year, which could give it a valuation of about $800 million to $1 billion, sources have said.

“The business has had some lean years and I would (say) a multiple of about 10 times is where this deal should settle,” the source added.

Earlier this year, the company hired Morgan Stanley (MS.N) for advice as it explores options for the golf unit. Aside from strategic players, which could include Nike Inc (NKE.N) or Adidas AG (ADSGn.DE) and private equity firms.

Fortune may decide in the end to spin off the golf business — instead of selling it outright — unless the bid prices come in significantly higher than they did in the first round, said a third source familiar with the situation.

A decision is still uncertain as Fortune waits for the next round’s bids, that source said.

Blackstone and Callaway declined comment.

Fortune Brands spokesman Clarkson Hine said: “As we’ve said before, we are exploring the sale or spin-off of our industry-leading Acushnet golf business. Acushnet is a valuable company that can create significant value for shareholders through a sale or as an independent company. Beyond that, we don’t intend to discuss the process.” (Reporting by Denny Thomas and Megan Davies; additional reporting by Jessica Hall in Philadelphia, Martinne Geller in New York and Viraj Nair in Bangalore; editing by Andre Grenon)