NEW YORK -- Private equity firm Carlyle Group is among the final suitors bidding to acquire TI Automotive, a closely held auto-industry supplier, four people familiar with the matter said over the past week.
TI Automotive, a maker of fuel tubes, lines and tanks, will pick the winning bidder in two to four weeks aiming to close by year-end, said the people, who asked not to be identified revealing private plans.
The company, registered in Oxford, England, with headquarters in suburban Detroit, may sell for about 900 million pounds ($1.38 billion), two of the people said. Four bidders had been interested in the automotive supplier and that pool narrowed to three in recent weeks, one of the people said.
Carlyle, the second-largest manager of private-equity funds, registered for an initial public offering of $100 million of its shares by next year, the company said in a filing Sept. 6 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
A tightening in the credit markets for such transactions since August has made a deal more difficult to reach, the person said. The auto industry hasn't been a recent focus for private-equity firms even though they hold $400 billion in cash, consulting firm PRTM said last month.
"There's been a gradual thawing in the interest level of private equity as it pertains to automotive," said Don Luciani, a managing partner at Amherst Partners LLC, a suburban Detroit investment-banking firm, said. "There's a sense that we're not in this boom-and-bust cycle any more and that autos may be a better landscape for investment."
Frank Buscemi, a spokesman for TI Automotive, and Chris Ullman, a Carlyle spokesman, declined to comment.
Products made by TI Automotive, which had $2.5 billion in revenue last year, are on two-thirds of the world's vehicles, CEO William Kozyra said last month at a presentation at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan.
Some 20 percent of its revenue, forecast to rise to $3 billion this year, comes from North America, he said. Kozyra said in February that the company was considering an initial public offering.
The company, which supplied fuel lines to Ford Motor Co.'s Model T, traces its roots to 1919 when it was known as Tube Investments Ltd. in Birmingham, England. It now has about 18,500 employees in 130 locations in 28 countries.