CapVis sells Tobler

Swiss fund CapVis has sold heating wholesaler Tobler in a trade sale worth CHF118m (£52m). British plc Wolseley, a specialist trade distributor of plumbing, heating and building material products, acquired 100% of the company. Marc Battenfeld, an investment professional at CapVis, said the deal had delivered a good return.

Tobler is the leading Swiss distributor of heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and behind-the-wall sanitation systems. It also provides technical maintenance services. The company’s distribution network consists of 21 branches in Switzerland, supported by six logistics centres, employing a total of 600 staff. For 2002 Tobler reported an operating profit of CHF15.8m (£7m) on sales totalling CHF236m (£105m).

CapVis backed a buyout of the company in April 2000, acquiring a 67% stake in the company with management holding approximately 13% and the vendor, the founding family, retaining a 20% interest. The total deal size was over CHF100m. While controlled by CapVis, Tobler divested non-core activities including an Austrian subsidiary. The company’s operational real estate was sold and leased back, allowing it to pay down debt and finance the acquisition of Sixmadun, a Swiss company that distributes heat generation systems. The management team was bolstered by the appointment of a new CEO, the logistics process reorganised and customer outlets were increased from 14 to 22.

CapVis organised a trade-only auction of the company, prior to which it held a 60% stake in Tobler, through Ernst & Young Corporate Finance in Zurich. Following the deal, which has been financed from Wolseley’s existing resources, the key operational staff of Tobler will remain with the business.

In line with Wolsey’s strategy of expanding into new markets, this is the group’s fourth acquisition since August and brings total spending up to £66m. In the US Wolseley bought Liberty Equipment & Supply, a leading distributor of pipe, valves and fittings to the commercial, industrial and marine construction markets, and JM Lumber, a leading distributor of lumber and building materials to professional contractors in Florida. Wolseley also acquired Toronto-based Nuroc Plumbing and Heating Supplies, a distributor of plumbing, heating and industrial supplies.