By Miriam Gottfried
Johnson Controls International PLC has hit a last-minute snag in its quest to sell its automotive-battery business, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company was nearing a deal to sell the unit to Brookfield Asset Management Inc. for close to $14 billion, the people said. Some analysts expected a deal with the private-equity firm to be announced ahead of Johnson Controls' fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report Thursday morning.
There was no deal announcement. Now, Apollo Global Management LLC, an early contender, has been invited to rebid for the business, the people said.
Apollo, which had offered around $13 billion, stopped its work on the deal when it became clear that Brookfield had won the auction, but it remains interested in the asset and is likely to step back into the ring, they said. Apollo was further along than Brookfield in its due diligence in what would be a complicated carve-out and would have been ready to announce a deal for the business soon after the Oct. 26 bidding deadline, some of the people said.
It is unclear if other parties have also been asked to submit new bids, and it is still possible that Brookfield will prevail or that a deal won't happen.
If a deal is reached, it would be one of the largest leveraged buyouts in a year filled with big ones. Private-equity firms have raised record amounts of cash that they must put to work in order to collect lucrative fees.
In January, Blackstone Group LP announced a $17 billion deal for a majority stake in the financial-data business of Thomson Reuters Corp. Carlyle Group LP in March said it, along with investment firm GIC, would purchase the specialty chemicals business of Akzo Nobel NV for about $12.6 billion, including debt. Also earlier this year, KKR & Co. announced it would buy BMC Software Inc. and Envision Healthcare Corp. for $8.3 billion and nearly $10 billion, respectively, including debt.
Apollo, which raised $24.6 billion last year for the largest private-equity fund ever and is also known for doing big buyouts, has yet to do a deal of that magnitude. It is also bidding for aluminum products maker Arconic Inc. in a deal that could top $10 billion, people familiar with the matter have told The Wall Street Journal.
Johnson Controls is an industrial and technology conglomerate headquartered in Cork, Ireland. It said in March it had hired investment bank Centerview Partners to help it explore strategic alternatives for its power solutions segment, as the battery business is known.
The unit, which is the world's largest maker of automotive batteries, generated $7.3 billion in revenue and $1.6 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in 2017. Fiscal fourth-quarter profit in the segment fell 2% compared with the prior year, hit by higher lead prices and foreign currency, the company said Thursday.
On a call with analysts to discuss its results, Johnson Controls said it had made "significant progress" related to the strategic review of its power business.
"We have assessed multiple options and are now in the final stages of that review as we weigh all possibilities before reaching a final decision," said Chief Executive George Oliver.
Write to Miriam Gottfried at Miriam.Gottfried@wsj.com