AMS triggers bidding war for Osram for photonics, sensor ambitions

AMS Osram
Logo of lamp manufacturer Osram is pictured during official opening of the company's World of Light showroom in Munich, Germany, October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/Files

VIENNA (Reuters) – Shares in Osram jumped after Austrian sensor maker AMS triggered a bidding war for the German lighting group, saying it was ready to trump Bain and Carlyle with a cash offer valuing the company at 4.3 billion euros ($4.8 billion).

AMS said it could create a global heavyweight in sensors and photonics with the acquisition of Osram, a leader in automotive lighting technology whose share price has been depressed by profit warnings, doubts over its strategy and a weak car market.

The offer, which is subject to Osram waiving a standstill agreement, would beat Bain Capital and Carlyle’s 4 billion-euro bid that has been recommended by Osram’s boards but slammed as too low by its biggest shareholder Allianz Global Investors.

AMS is keen to diversify into sensors for self-driving cars as it works to reduce its dependence on Apple, which analysts estimate accounts for around 40% of revenue.

“The transaction is strategically compelling as it creates the global leader in sensor solutions and photonics for consumer as well as automotive, industrial and medical applications,” said AMS Chief Executive Alexander Everke.

“Together we will command the broadest portfolio of optical sensing and photonics in the industry,” he said on a conference call on Monday.

Osram shares rose as much as 12%, briefly surpassing Bain and Carlyle’s offer of 35 euros a share but remained below AMS’s offer of 38.50 euros.

The German group said it was examining AMS’s proposal and would comment later.

Shares in Swiss-listed AMS fell 10%, with Vontobel analysts saying the transaction would raise AMS’s risk profile and value creation would be highly dependent on synergies, which AMS expects to exceed 300 million euros a year.

AMS’s planned bid is backed by a 4.2 billion-euro bridge loan facility underwritten by UBS and HSBC, which AMS plans to refinance by issuing debt and equity, including raising 1.5 billion euros of new equity.

A spokesman for Bain and Carlyle declined to comment.


AMS previously showed interest in Osram in June, signing a confidentiality agreement in order to gain access for due diligence. That included a clause under which AMS would not make another takeover attempt on Osram within 12 months. Back then, AMS did not make an offer, backpedalling within days as it did not have sufficient financing.

With financing now in place, AMS has given Osram until Aug. 15 to waive the standstill agreement and said it would then make a formal bid.

Analysts have previously questioned the logic of AMS’s interest in Osram, saying it would have to carve out or sell Osram’s non-semiconductor operations for a deal to make sense.

They also have voiced concern about the Austrian group’s debt and the difficulty of diversifying from Apple amid fierce competition, global trade tensions and rapid technological developments.

Investors’ unease is reflected in AMS’ share price, which is 30% lower than a year ago.


AMS aims to overcome those concerns by beefing up its auto business. It already develops sensors that can help map roads and control gear shifters and chassis in autonomous vehicles. It said a year ago it was engaging with “a global pioneer in autonomous driving platforms”, and has repeatedly stressed that interest from the sector was rising.

Osram applies LEDs and laser chips to lock and unlock cars. It took a stake in Recogni, a Silicon Valley start-up that specialises in artificial intelligence for driverless cars earlier this month.

AMS aims to increase the automotive business’s revenue share to 35-40% if the total from 10% currently if it aquires Osram.

To streamline production and avoid overcapacity, the Austrian group plans to shift Osram’s LED production from Asia to Germany’s Regensburg. That does not necessarily imply that Osram’s billion-dollar factory in Malaysia’s Kulim will be shut down, an AMS spokeswoman said. AMS would rather see whether it can use the facility for other products.

The Austrian company said it would gradually phase out the consumer general lighting LED business, which the Kulim factory was built to service.

AMS said it sees Osram’s digital division – part of Osram’s attempt to become a high-tech group – as non-core, adding that it would seek “the best owner” for the division.

($1 = 0.8953 euros)

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, Francois Murphy in VIENNA, Alexander Huebner in MUNICH and Kanishka Singh in BENGALURU; Editing by Bill Rigby, Georgina Prodhan, Kirsten Donovan)

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