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3i and Ratos in Atle buy

3i, the European venture capital firm, and Ratos, a private equity firm listed on the Swedish Stock Exchange, have made an offer for Atle, a leading quoted Swedish private equity investor. This will be 3i’s fourth acquisition of an independent investment firm since it acquired Technologieholding in February last year.

Atle is an investor in unlisted small and medium sized companies primarily located in Sweden and tending in the main to operate in the Nordic region. Atle has 40 personnel of which 20 are investment managers. On average Atle has undertaken between 20 and 30 transactions including investments and exits per year.

The plan is to divide Atle’s investment portfolio between 3i and Ratos in the approximate ratio of 60:40 by value. Seventy-five investments will be transferred to 3i, ten investments, primarily majority holdings, will be split between 3i and Ratos, and one wholly-owned investment and one listed holding will be transferred to Ratos. The remainder of the portfolio, which totals 19, will be jointly owned by Ratos and 3i. 3i’s costs in respect of these investments is GBP363 million in cash.

The offer, worth SEK153 in cash per Atle share or GBP579.9 million, by 3i and Ratos has been made through a joint venture called Woodrose. The offer is conditional on Atle’s interest in Studsvik, a supplier of products and services to the nuclear power industry, being demerged by way of dividend in specie to Atle shareholders. A resolution proposing this dividend will be put to Atle shareholders at Atle’s AGM, which is slated for April 19, 2001. Atle’s board is recommending Atle shareholders vote in favour of this resolution and it is unanimously recommending Atle shareholders to accept the offer. At the time of the announcement 30.5 per cent of Atle’s shareholders had given irrevocably undertakings to accept.

If the offer is accepted the majority of Atle’s employees will join 3i’s recently established office in Stockholm and, according to 3i, become the nucleus of its investment business in Sweden. A small team will manage the jointly owned investments and one executive will join Ratos.

3i has stormed through its continental European acquisitions after its abortive attempt to bid for Electra Investment Trust plc in the spring of 1999. That bid was seen off by Electra Fleming, now Electra Partners Europe. Then in February 2000 3i’s acquisitive activities gathered pace when it bought the Munich-based technology venture capital investor Technologieholding for an estimated $166.17 million. By May 3i had bought Finland’s venture capital firm SFK Finance for $10.283 million. In September it bought the remaining 80 per cent it didn’t already own in Bank Austria TFV High Tech-Unternehmens for $65.3 million.