Carlyle Says Will Consider Bid For Loscam

The Carlyle Group will consider bidding for Australian pallet maker Loscam, the U.S. private equity giant’s managing director said on March 4, in a deal that could be worth at least A$500 million ($452.5 million).

“It is an interesting asset. We will take a look at it,” Simon Moore told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.

“There is a series of secondary sales in the market today which we will take a look at,” he said.

Moore was referring to businesses being sold by other private equity firms, with the pipeline for 2010 shaping up to be the best year since 2007, after a slump during the global financial crisis.

Private equity firm Affinity Equity Partners bought Loscam in 2005 in a leveraged buyout, and has appointed Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank to advise on exit options, including a possible share market listing, sources told Reuters Basis Point last month.

Loscam makes and rents out wooden and plastic pallets, competing against Brambles Ltd., the world’s top pallet supplier. Loscam is based in Australia and has 11 offices in Asia, according to the company’s website.

“We are keen to make investments here,” Moore said of Australia, particularly in the mining and mining services sectors, education and information technology industries.

Moore said although Carlyle was interested in investments in the education sector, he thought CHAMP Private Equity‘s prospective exit of its education provider Study Group International was more likely to go to a public listing than a trade sale because of strong interest in the market.

Moore earlier told the AVCJ industry conference that constraints on lending from more cautious banks meant that Carlyle was likely to make smaller deals in Australia than in the past.

“For us at the bigger end (of the market), the deal size going to be smaller,” he said.

Carlyle teamed up with the National Hire group in 2007 to buy Australia’s biggest rental equipment business Coates, for A$2.2 billion.

Moore said Australian banks were now willing to lend a maximum facility size of A$400 million to A$700 million, with a leverage ratio of 3x to 4x a company’s earnings.

That is a conservative level below the 5.5x to 6x times earnings that banks in the U.S. are prepared to lend as the market there recovers.

“The reality is in a bank market that was over 30 deep, that market doesn’t exist any more. There are six to eight banks open to do business with the (private equity) community on a leverage basis,” Moore said.

(Reporting by Victoria Thieberger)