By Pamela Barbaglia and Emiliano Mellino
LONDON (Reuters) - Three investment firms are vying to buy French call centre operator Webhelp in a deal which could value the business at around 1 billion euros (£0.71 billion), four sources familiar with the matter said.
Webhelp's owner Charterhouse [CHCAP.UL] is looking to offload the company, which provides outsourcing services to companies such as Sky and Vodafone, to another investment firm in a so-called secondary buyout.
It has asked U.S. buyout fund KKR and European private equity house Apax to submit binding offers in the next couple of weeks, the sources said.
Brussels-based Cobepa, an investment company backed by European family shareholders, has also been admitted to the final stages of the auction, they said.
Webhelp, Charterhouse, KKR and Apax declined to comment. Cobepa had no immediate comment.
Based in Paris, Webhelp is expected to have earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of around 115 million euros in 2015, one of the sources said, and could be sold at a multiple of 9 to 10 times its EBITDA.
Deutsche Bank was hired earlier this year to kick off a process which initially drew interest from other heavyweight private equity funds such as Silver Lake [SILAK.UL] and PAI, the source said.
The sale, which is expected to be wrapped up by the end of the year, comes amid a series of portfolio divestments by Charterhouse, which sold Environmental Resources Management in June and is now in the process of exiting healthcare company Tunstall.
Charterhouse secured a majority stake in Webhelp in 2011 and has since worked to expand its global reach and move into new markets.
In October it bought call centre peer Callpex in Turkey, its first acquisition outside Europe, while also reinforcing its presence in Switzerland with the purchase of CSM.
A source close to Webhelp said its revenue will grow more than 35 percent this year to an estimated 725 million euros.
Founded in 2000 by co-chairmen Frédéric Jousset and Olivier Duha, Webhelp is present in 21 countries and employs more than 30,000 people.
($1 = 0.9209 euros)
(Editing by David Evans)