Buyout firms bid for UK’s Pets at Home

At least seven private equity firms have submitted bids for Pets at Home, increasing the likelihood of a sale of the UK retailer rather than an initial public offering, sources familiar with the matter said.

The sources said Apax Partners, Bain Capital, Blackstone, Charterhouse, Cinven, KKR and TPG all submitted first-round bids for the company, owned by mid-market private equity shop Bridgepoint.

Pets at Home is valued at £700m or more, the sources said. It has been running a dual track process, working on both a London stock-market listing and a sale of the business.

The company was one of the first in Europe to be touted for a stock-market listing as private equity firms prepare their best portfolio companies for flotation. Strong interest from deal-hungry private equity firms will make a sale a more attractive option as it could allow Bridgepoint to make a full exit from the company, sources said, instead of retaining a stake in a listed firm.

Bridgepoint declined to comment. The other private equity firms either declined to comment or were unavailable for comment. The credit crisis thwarted Bridgepoint’s previous attempt to sell or float the business in 2007, but a recovery in equity markets earlier this year prompted it to dust off plans.

In October Bridgepoint said it had hired JP Morgan Cazenove as sponsor, book runner and global coordinator to investigate a possible listing and Rothschild as an adviser.

Successful bidders will hear before Christmas that they are progressing to the second round and will have until the end of January to prepare second-round bids, sources said.

Bridgepoint bought Pets at Home in 2004 for £230m. Under its ownership, turnover grew to £404.2m for the year to end March 2009 and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization to £70m.