German engineering and services group Bilfinger aims to sell its civil engineering division quickly and, at the same time, is open to acquisitions abroad, the chief executive of the company was quoted as saying on Saturday.
The company is accepting expressions of interest and preparing the unit for sale, CEO Roland Koch told newspaper Die Welt, confirming a story published by Reuters on Friday.
"We just launched the process," he said. "In the interest of our employees and clients, this process should not last any longer than is absolutely necessary - we expect one year at most."
Bilfinger wants to wean itself off a business model vulnerable to price wars in the building sector and focus on providing higher-margin engineering and services for industrial facilities, power plants and real estate.
The company said earlier in May that it aimed to exit certain parts of its construction activities.
Koch said the group had about 800 million euros for possible acquisitions and that he aimed to bolster activities in targeted regions abroad.
"Up to now we did only about 20 percent of our business outside of Europe. That's clearly too little," he said.
The United States may be an interesting place to expand, he said, but not at the expense of the group's activities in the Middle East, India or South Africa.
Bilfinger is looking for possible buyers for its civil engineering division among construction and engineering companies such as Strabag, Porr, Skanska , Vinci and Bouygues, sources told Reuters on Friday.
The division - heavily exposed to Germany and other European countries - builds steel bridges, tunnels, subways and urban rail lines as well as noise-protection walls. In the field of energy, it makes foundations for offshore wind parks and overhead power lines.
(Reporting by Thomas Atkins; Editing by Pravin Char)
($1 = 0.7345 Euros)