Former PC buyer focuses on InFocus

Contact: Brenon Daly

Having already played a central role in much of the recent consolidation of the PC industry, John Hui has shifted his attention to another segment of the tech hardware market: digital projectors. Hui on Monday unveiled a take-private plan for long-suffering InFocus, offering 95 cents for each of the 41 million shares of the digital projector maker. The board of directors, which includes an activist shareholder, has signed off on the $39m tender offer. The bid will go out within two weeks and needs two-thirds of shareholders to support it. (InFocus management and the company’s largest shareholder, who holds 12% of the company, have agreed to back the buyout.)

Hui founded and took public eMachines in 2000. Shares traded underwater after the offer and Hui, advised by Los Angeles-based boutique Averil Capital Markets Group, took the company private the following year in a $161m deal. Hui then turned around and sold eMachines to Gateway for some $256m in early 2004. Following the sale, Hui held a large stake of Gateway and looked to expand that through an unsolicited offer for Gateway’s retail PC division in 2006. Instead, Acer picked up Gateway for $710m in cash in 2007. Shortly after that deal closed, the combined Acer/Gateway acquired Hui’s 75% stake in European PC vendor Packard Bell.

For all of the buying and selling over the past decade, Hui has tapped Averil founder Diana Maranon, a former banker at Wasserstein Perella & Co. (remember that firm?) and lawyer at Skadden Arps. On the other side, InFocus retained a trio of bankers (Blake Kim, Brian Sapp and Seth Ferguson) from Thomas Weisel Partners. The mandate actually dates back to mid-December, when the company hired TWP to help it evaluate an unsolicited approach.

AVX looking to buy again

Contact: Brenon Daly

A year and a half after inking the largest deal in its history, electronic components maker AVX is mulling a return to the market. CEO John Gilbertson told investors at the Thomas Weisel Partners Technology Conference on Monday that he’s considering acquisitions that would bolster the company’s specialty business, including defense, medical or aerospace. Gilbertson added that any deal would be small, likely in the range of $30-50m.

The CEO also said he wouldn’t be paying anywhere close to the multiple he paid in AVX’s largest deal, the $231m all-cash purchase of American Technical Ceramics (ATC) in June 2007. In that transaction, AVX paid 2.6x trailing 12-month revenue for ATC, in part because it had to outbid at least three other parties. (Thomas Weisel banked ATC.)

Since announcing that acquisition, shares of AVX – a dividend-paying company that is majority owned by Kyocera – have lost 40% of their value. The company currently has no debt, with $527m in cash and equivalents, and sports an enterprise value of about $1bn. That’s just 0.6x the $1.6bn in sales that AVX recorded in 2008. Gilbertson said that’s more the valuation he’d expect to pay in any deal he’d do these days.