Ardian eyes North American-based companies with next buyout fund

Ardian is expanding its focus in the U.S. with its next upper-middle-market buyout fund that will give it flexibility for the first time to buy North American-based companies, sources told Buyouts.

Ardian Buyout Fund VII is in market targeting $6 billion, sources said. Fund VII primarily targets Europe but also allows the firm to buy North American-based companies, sources said. This is different from prior funds that targeted Europe-based companies with the ability to expand them into North America.

Ahead of the fund, Ardian has built up a team in New York to help pursue North American opportunities. Thibault Basquin, head of Americas Investments for Ardian Buyout Fund, leads the charge. Basquin has worked for Ardian for 18 years and moved to New York to build the team, describing it as a “great entrepreneurial opportunity.”

He is joined by Christopher Sand, director, who joined this year from Centre Partners Management; Giorgio Cicala, investment manager, who joined Ardian in 2015 from UBS in Milan; and Julia Wu, investment manager, who joined this year after two years at Goldman Sachs.

Fund VII targets investments in the food value chain, healthcare, specialty pharmaceuticals and medical devices, wellness, sustainable chemicals and business services.

Thibault declined to discuss fundraising. About the move into New York, he said: “We believe it’s critical to have a local presence in markets where we invest, and/or those which are key destinations for our portfolio companies, so there was never any doubt that we would ultimately establish a dedicated North American team at the appropriate time.

“We will focus on cross-border and transatlantic growth-oriented opportunities in the upper midmarket—European companies looking to grow in North America and vice versa, North American companies that want to expand into Europe,” Basquin said.

Ardian has not yet invested in businesses headquartered in North America, Basquin said. The firm tries to work with family founders and seeks buy-and-build opportunities. It will invest a minimum of $200 million of equity into deals ranging from $400 million to $2 billion in size, he said.

Ardian has a smaller-market buyout team that already invests in North American-headquartered companies. That fund family, called Ardian North American Fund, is led by Vincent Fandozzi and focuses on industrial investments. That group launched in 2016.

The larger buyout funds include Ardian Buyout Fund VI, which closed on 4 billion euros in 2016 (plus 500 million euros for co-investments), and Fund V, which closed on 2.4 billion euros in 2012 (plus 400 million euros for co-investments).

Some recent examples of cross-border investments include Kersia, a provider of food safety services, which Ardian acquired in 2016. The firm recently acquired Canada-based Choisy Laboratories, which develops biotechnology and biosecurity hygiene products, as the fifth add-on to Kersia.

Also, Ardian grew Paris-based calibration services provider Trescal, which it acquired in 2013, into a global enterprise across six new countries, through 25 add-ons globally. It grew from one to 20 labs in the U.S. and its customer base to 40,000 from 25,000 around the world. Ardian exited the investments in 2017.

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