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Schneider Electric confirms Bentley Systems talks

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Schneider Electrics is pictured at the company's headquarters near Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - Schneider Electric is in talks with U.S. engineering software producer Bentley Systems over a potential "strategic transaction", it said on Friday without elaborating, sending the French company's shares down 2%.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Bentley Systems, which has a market value of nearly $16 billion, was exploring options including a sale after attracting acquisition interest.

Among the companies that have expressed interest in a deal with Bentley are Schneider and design software firm Cadence Design Systems, one of the sources said.

Schneider said talks were at a preliminary stage and there was no certainty over any deal.

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In the event of a full takeover and at current valuations, the deal would rank among the top 10 acquisitions in the United States by a French company, according to financial data firm Dealogic. The biggest deal on record in recent years was the 2021 acquisition of Tiffany by LVMH for $16.2 billion.

Schneider, which specialises in equipment to manage energy supply to homes, industry and data centres, has sought to grow its software business through acquisitions in recent years.

In late 2022 it agreed an $11.9 billion deal for UK software company Aveva Group after a prolonged battle with investors who pushed for a higher price.

Bentley Systems, which is controlled by the Bentley family through a special class of shares, has formed a special committee of its board of directors to explore options, sources close to the matter have told Reuters.

The options include an outright sale of the company as well as a joint venture, they said.

"It is a surprise to us that Schneider is exploring an acquisition of this scale," Berenberg analysts said, noting this appears to be at odds with its messaging of "evolution not revolution."

Schneider has a market capitalisation of about $132 billion vs $15.6 bln for Bentley, according to LSEG data.

($1 = 0.9390 euros)

(Reporting by Dominique Patton, Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by David Goodman, Kirsten Donovan)