Apax and Chequers sell Alma

The French arm of Apax and Chequers Capital have ended their investment in Alma Consulting Group, a provider of cost reduction and tax recovery services, by selling the combined stake to London-based firm Candover for a report sum of €800m.

Candover is investing from its 2005 Fund alongside the management ream, who are re-investing a “significant proportion of their proceeds” according to a statement. RBS is arranging the debt financing and underwriting an additional mezzanine component.

Bertrand Finet, director of Candover in France, said: “Alma is well placed to continue to develop its market presence – both in its home market and internationally. Complex and ever changing legal, tax and market environments, and a success-based fee model, make their proposition very attractive to clients. We are backing a proven management team, led by Marc, which has already acquired and integrated eight companies into the group within the last three years. It’s a unique business, supported by a 20 year track record, proprietary research and databases and excellent long term client relationships.”

Alma was founded in 1986 in France, and helps its clients to recover excess social charges and tax payments, save money on general operating and administrative charges, as well as pensions and healthcare, and obtain innovation tax credits and R&D subsidies.

It has over 10,000 corporate clients, including 60% of France’s top 200 companies, and has operations in Spain, Poland, Italy, Belgium, the UK and Israel, and employs over 1,000 people. In 2006, turnover was €153m; in line with an average annual growth rate that has exceeded 20% per annum for a decade. Turnover for 2007 should exceed €180m.

Apax Partners France acquired its stake in Alma in November 2005, with Chequers, which had been a shareholder since 2001, taking a reduced stake.

Monique Cohen, partner at Apax, said: “We have been very pleased to back Marc Eisenberg and his management team. During the period of our ownership, Alma has enjoyed exceptional growth, both organically and through acquisitions, brought about by its professionalism and its capacity to innovate and develop new product offers. We remain confident about Alma’s ability to continue its successful growth strategy.”