Barclays Private Equity Closes First Belgian Deal

Luc Thijs, the founding owner of Alro, the Belgian group that leads the European market in painting and coating components for the automotive industry, turned to UK private equity providers when he sought to sell a majority of his business.

Barclays Private Equity won the deal against competition from other UK financial purchasers and completed the BFr 4 billion (ecu 98 million) buyout in July. The transaction ranks as one of the largest private equity deals seen to date in the relatively underdeveloped Belgian buyout market.

Luc Thijs has retained a minority holding in the business and continues with the company as joint managing director in partnership with Ger Joris, who joined from Pelzer, the German automotive supply group. Two existing senior managers, Josee Vangansewinkel and Marc Ramaekers, have also become shareholders in the newco, Alro Holdings. Barclays Private Equity holds a majority stake.

Half the BFr 3 billion acquisition consideration was funded by equity and half by acquisition debt. The structure also included BFr 800 million to fund planned capital expenditure over the next 12 months and a BFr 200 million working capital facility. Barclays Capital Acquisition Finance led the debt funding, and Kredietbank will provide a portion of the debt facilities.

With plants in Dilsen and Genk, Alro is situated at the heart of the most concentrated region of car and truck assembly plants in Europe. Its customers include Volvo, Scania, Daf and Ford, as well as several major players in the electronics industry. Alro has achieved a growth rate averaging 30% per annum over the last few years. The new owners, who are investing in further capacity, including an additional paint line, hope to continue this impressive growth record.