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Safran seen picking Morpho buyer by end of September

| PARIS, Sept 14

PARIS, Sept 14 France's Safran could make a decision on the potential sale of its Morpho biometrics and security business for more than 2 billion euros by the end of September, a person close to the process said on Wednesday.

The aerospace company expects to receive offers from five shortlisted bidders by Friday.

Chief Executive Philippe Petitcolin said in June that a buyer could be identified by the end of the year, but the company is preparing for a quick decision, the source said.

"Everything is happening so that it can be done by the end of this month," the person said, asking not to be identified.

Engine maker Safran, a partially state-owned French company which is refocusing on its core aerospace business after a review of its security-equipment activities, declined comment.

The shortlist of bidders is believed to include digital security firms Gemalto and Oberthur as well as three funds: Bain Capital, CVC Capital Partners and KKR.

In an earlier round, all five made indicative offers over 2 billion euros, a person familiar with the sale said in June.

The highest offer was worth about 2.2 billion euros, another person involved in the process said, adding that a third round of bidding could not be ruled out.

Oberthur and its majority shareholder, private equity firm Advent International, have offered to keep the business headquartered in France together with its research and development activities, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

Bain Capital and its partner French private equity firm Ardian have pledged to invest about 1 billion euros over 5-6 years to develop Morpho, a person familiar with the bid said.

Separately, Safran is in the process of selling Morpho Detection, which makes explosives detection equipment, to British engineering firm Smiths Group. (Writing by Tim Hepher; editing by David Clarke)

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