(Updates with details, background)
FRANKFURT/ZURICH Feb 5 (Reuters) - Buyout group EQT is discussing postponing the planned stock market flotation of its visa services firm VFS on fears that the spread of the coronavirus could impact the deal, people close to the matter said.
While EQT had planned to launch the flotation next month it is considering postponing the deal to May, the people said, adding that no final decision had been taken.
EQT and VFS declined to comment.
"Investors are worried because it is not clear how deep the dip in first-quarter performance will be," one of the sources said.
The deliberations on the timing of the initial public offering come after Germany's Atotech last week decided to postpone its float, concerned that the coronavirus outbreak would negatively impact valuation.
A second person said that while the base case remained a first-quarter launch of the IPO, the timing of the deal would be reconsidered if the situation does not improve in coming weeks.
"It's premature to say that the VFS IPO will be pushed back as the company has a very limited presence in China," a third person added.
While China was an important market for VFS, travellers from other Asian countries were hardly affected so far, the second person said, adding that most Chinese travelled in the summer months and not in the first quarter.
Dubai-headquartered VFS is a provider of visa process outsourcing services for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. It supplies security checks, information dissemination and form checks for visa applicants, as well as the recording of biometric data and identity verification.
EQT bought Swiss travel group Kuoni in 2016 and split it into three businesses. VFS, in which Kuoni and the Hugentobler Foundation have stakes, has made a series of acquisitions since then.
The listing could value VFS at more than 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.08 billion), another of the sources said.
Last year, EQT tried to sell the company but shelved the deal after offers came in too low..
It opted for an IPO instead, which is being organised by Credit Suisse, Citi and UBS, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company, which competes with France's TLScontact operates in 147 countries and processes visa applications for governments in around 3,400 sites. ($1 = 0.9734 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Arno Schuetze, Oliver Hirt and Abhinav Ramnarayan; editing by Thomas Seythal, Kirsten Donovan)