PARIS - TotalFinaElf announced an agreement to sell its SigmaKalon coatings business, one of the 10 biggest coatings manufacturers in the world, to the private investment firm Bain Capital. The sale is subject to regulatory approvals and trade-union consultation procedures.

TotalFinaElf said the proposed sale would provide SigmaKalon "the opportunity to develop its growth prospects in an operational, commercial and financial framework better suited to its activities." The transaction is in line with a strategic plan initiated in 2000 by ATOFINA, the chemical unit of TotalFinaElf, to "reposition and refocus" its business activities. The plan called for the divestiture of assets totaling 1.5 billion euros between 2000 and 2003.

SigmaKalon is reported to be the second-largest manufacturer of decorative coatings in Europe, and the company also is a major producer of marine, anticorrosion and industrial coatings. Sales in 2001 were approximately 1.7 billion euros, or about $1.72 billion.

Bain Capital, a major global private investment firm with more than $14 billion in total assets under management, specializes in the acquisition of sizeable non-core assets from major companies and the operation of those businesses as independent entities.

In a statement on the pending sale, SigmaKalon CEO Pierre-Marie De Leener said Bain Capital "has indicated that it is generally supportive of both the SigmaKalon senior management team and the group's strategy. There is a constructive ongoing dialogue between the SigmaKalon Group management board and Bain Capital."

SigmaKalon employs about 10,400 people in 40 countries, and holds major market positions in decorative coatings in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, and Hungary. The company's branded products and private-label paints are sold through company-owned stores, independent dealers and major retail chains.

Bain Capital, with offices in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Europe, focuses on the acquisition of companies that offer "excellent potential for equity appreciation." The company says its approach is to develop partnerships with "exceptional management teams."