Cinven buys photo business of GrandVision

Cinven has bought Photo Service and Photo Station, which make-up GrandVision’s entire photo finishing division. The total package comprises equity, senior debt and mezzanine worth E282 million (Ffr1.85 billion). Cinven, the company’s management and minority investors including Michael Likerman, co-founder of Photo Service, provided equity. Goldman Sachs arranged the debt package and GrandVision provided a loan note of E13 million (Ffr85 million).

Daniel Abittan and Michael Likierman, co-chairmen of GrandVision said: “The decision to separate from the historic base of the group was not easy. It will, however, permit the Photo Service and Photo Station teams to participate directly in the development of their companies.” Cinven has established a holding company called Photo Europe as the acquisition vehicle with Jacques Baud, who runs the Photo Station outlets, as its CEO. Stefan Morin will be chief operating officer.

John Brown, deputy managing director of Cinven, said the deal was typical of much restructuring currently underway among French corporations. Following the disposal of its photo finishing division GrandVision will refocus on its core business, optical retailing. Abittan and Likierman said of the company’s future: “With all the burden of debt removed, we will be well placed to seize future opportunities while concentrating on strongly growing the profitability of our existing businesses.” The company operates under the brand names of GrandOptical, Generale d’Optique and Solaris in France and Vision Express in the UK. Hugh Langmu ir the Paris-based Cinven director who led the deal said: “GrandVision was too unfocused and was penalised for this on the stock market.”

The photo businesses, which include 472 stores in France (where nearly 3000 people are employed), Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg, reported revenues for last year of Ffr1.577 billion.

The company estimates that the two chains account for 13.5 per cent of the market in photographic services, a market worth E2 billion.

Banque Rothschild advised GrandVision.