Deal Briefs

Altor Equity Partners has agreed to acquire paper and packaging retailer Papyrus from Stora Enso. No financial terms were disclosed. Sweden-based Papyrus reported 2007 sales of just over €2 billion. Debt financing was arranged by Handelsbankenm.

American Capital Strategies has arranged a $75 million recapitalization of insurance brokerage Tanenbaum-Harber Co. Holdings Inc., an ACS portfolio company that is majority owned by Olympus Partners (which also participated).

American Education Group, a private education acquisition platform, has acquired Little Sprouts, a provider of pre-K educational services in the Boston area. No financial terms were disclosed. AEG was formed last year via a $40 million funding commitment from private equity firms Chicago Growth Partners and Winona Capital Management. Its initial acquisition was a private middle and high school in New Jersey.

Arsenal Capital Partners has agreed to acquire DSM Special Products, a unit of Royal DSM NV that manufactures specialty ingredients used in food, pharma and animal feeds. No financial terms were disclosed, except that the unit had 207 sales of approximately $150 million. The carve-out is expected to close next quarter, at which point Holland-based DSM Special Products will be renamed Genovique Specialties BV.

Asyst Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: ASYT) said that it’s board has rejected an unsolicited $5-$6 per share buyout approach from The Gores Group and Aquest Systems Corp., because it “undervalued” the company. Asyst makes automation technology for makers of semiconductors and flat panel displays. Gores is a private equity firm, while Aquest is a VC-backed provider of semiconductor equipment that has raised around $22 million from Global Catalyst Partners, Menlo Ventures and Walden International.

Azure Capital Partners and Bridgescale Partners have acquired NeoNova Network Services from Digitel Inc. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which also included participation from Hercules Technology Growth Capital. NeoNova is an Internet service provider for the rural U.S. market.

Bain Capital and Huawei Co. are planning to resubmit an application for U.S. approval of their proposed $2.2 billion buyout of 3Com Corp., according to The Wall Street Journal. The revised proposal would keep the ownership percentages intact, but would limit China-based Huawei’s access to certain 3Com technologies deemed sensitive to U.S. homeland security interests.

Bain Capital has made capital calls of its institutional investors, in order to secure funds for its pending buyout of Clear Channel Communications.

BCE Inc. (BCE) said that its Cnd$52 billion buyout is still on, after the Quebec Superior Court dismissed bondholder claims that the purchase price was unfair. BCE last year agreed to be acquired by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Providence Equity Partners, Madison Dearborn Partners and Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity.

The Blackstone Group has retained Credit Suisse to advise it on a possible bid for UK engineering group FKI, according to The Sunday Telegram. FKI already has received an 85 pence per share bid from specialist engineering company Melrose, which would value FKI at around £500 million. Blackstone reportedly held talks with FKI last year, but did not make a formal offer.

The Blackstone Group, Manitoba Telecom Services and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board have teamed up to bid on an upcoming wireless spectrum auction in Canada. The group made a Cnd$340 million deposit in the form of credit letters to Industry Canada, which is conducting the auction.

Brynwood Partners has closed a $27 million dividend recap for portfolio company Metro Door Inc., according to LBO Wire. The deal returns all of Brynwood’s original investment in the company, which installs and repairs security gates for national retail chains. Brynwood also is gearing up to raise between $350 million and $400 million for its sixth fund.

Champlain Financial Corp. has acquired a control position in Les Produits Neptune Inc., a Quebec-based designer and manufacturer of luxury bathroom fixtures. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which also includes participation by Neptune founders and management.

Channelstone Partners has acquired Manduka Inc., a San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based maker of yoga accessories. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which includes growth capital financing.

Charterhouse Capital Partners has acquired UK commercial insurer Giles from Gresham Private Equity. No financial terms were disclosed. Gresham had led a £45 million buyout of Giles back in 2006, and had since sponsored ten acquisitions.

CI Capital Partners has formed CoVant Technologies LLC, an acquisition platform focused on companies that provide technology solutions to the defense, homeland security and intelligence markets. It is being formed in partnership with an executive team led by Joseph Kampf, former president and CEDO of Anteon International. CI and the executives have each committed $200 million, and the CoVant platform has made its first deal by acquiring A-T Solutions Inc., a Fredericksburg, Va.-based provider of analytical and training solutions for the detection, identification and defeat of IEDs and weapons of mass destruction.

Cinven is interested in bidding on Trillium, the property management unit of Land Securities Group PLC, according to Dow Jones. Land Securities today announced that it had received an approach for the division, which has annual revenue of just over $1.5 billion.

CIVC Partners has acquired Innovative Aftermarket Systems LP, an Austin, Texas-based provider of vehicle finance and insurance (F&I) aftermarket programs to auto dealers. No financial terms were disclosed.

Cognetas and Englefield Capital have agreed to acquire Morrison Utility Services from UK water group Anglia. The deal is valued at £135 million.

Colony Capital is no longer acquiring a 65% stake in European oil refining company Tamoil from the Libyan government, despite an agreement last year to do just that. It is unclear why the deal died. The total transaction would have been valued at €2.6 billion, with Libya retaining a 35% position. When Tamoil first went on the block in 2006, it attracted interest from such suitors as The Carlyle Group, ERG SpA and Respol.

Covad Communications Group Inc. (AMEX: DVW) shareholders have approved a $417 million buyout offer from Platinum Equity. The deal values Covad stock at $1.02 per share, and is expected to close next quarter. Covad is a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of integrated voice and data communications. It is being advised on the deal by Barclays Capital, while Platinum is being advised by Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin.

First Reserve Corp. has completed its $1.8 billion take-private acquisition of Abbot Group PLC, a UK oilfield services company. Syndication of the related debt package is expected to begin this week.

Graphic Packaging Holding Co. (NYSE: GPK) has completed its previously-announced merger with Altivity Packaging LLC, a portfolio company of TPG Capital. The combined company had 2007 pro-forma revenue of approximately $4.4 billion, and provides paperboard packaging solutions to the food, beverage and consumer products industries. Altivity shareholders will hold a 40% stake in the combined company.

GTCR Golder Rauner and Encore FBO have completed their acquisition of Landmark Aviation’s airport services business, from Dubai Aerospace Enterprise. No financial terms were disclosed, although LBO Wire puts the deal value at around $435 million. Barclays Capital provided leveraged financing. Dubai Aerospace acquired Landmark Aviation from The Carlyle Group last year for approximately $700 million, as part of a larger transaction. Encore FBO is a portfolio company of Platform Partners.

Harbour Group has acquired Top Knobs USA Inc., a Hillsborough, N.J.-based maker of decorative hardware for the kitchen and bath industry. No financial terms were disclosed. Top Knobs was advised by Headwaters MB.

Highland Consumer Fund, a growth equity fund affiliated with VC firm Highland Capital Partners, has acquired athletic retailer City Sports. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which also includes a growth equity investment.

KKR has completed its take-private buyout of UK-based specialist software company Northgate Information Solutions. The deal valued Northgate at around $2.2 billion.

KMC Mining Corp., an open-put miner in the Canadian oil sands, has raised an undisclosed amount of private equity funding from TriWest Capital Partners, Alberta Investment Management Corp., ATB Investment Management, Kensington Capital Partners and KMC management.

KSL Capital Partners has acquired Western Athletic Clubs, an owner and operator of nine luxury fitness facilities on the West Coast. No financial terms were disclosed.

Lightower Fiber LLC, a Boxborough, Mass.-based provider of digital fiber optic networks, has agreed to acquire both DataNet Communications Group Inc. and KeySpan Communications. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which more than triples Lightower Fiber’s available route miles. M/C Venture Partners and Wachovia Capital Partners last year acquired Lightower (then known as National Grid Wireless) from National Grid PLC for approximately $290 million.

LNK Partners has completed its previously-announced recapitalization of sandwich shop chain Au Bon Pain, in partnership with company management. The sponsors invested more than $100 million in equity for a majority position, while leveraged financing was provided by CapitalSource and Intermediate Capital Group. The Compass Group, which owned Au Bon Pain from 2002 to 2005, retained an equity position, while subsequent buyer PNC Mezzanine Capital sold its stake.

Marlin Equity Partners of Los Angeles has closed on its acquisition of Courage Inc., a Las Vegas-based designer and marketer of unique novelty, gift and collectible pens. Couragewill be integrated with Ultra*Pro, a current Marlin portfolio company.

Mason Wells is in talks to acquire Coating Excellence International LLC, according to LBO Wire. No financial terms were disclosed. CEI is a Wrightstown, Wis.-based maker of flexible packaging for paper reams and food and industrial products.

MoneyGram International Inc. (NYSE:MGI) has amended the terms of its recapitalization plan with Thomas H. Lee Partners and Goldman Sachs, after failing to meet certain closing conditions of the prior agreement. The revised deal includes a $760 million investment in exchange for a 79 percent stake, compared to the original $775 million investment for a 63 percent stake. It also halves the stock conversion price from $5 to $2.50 per share, raises the dividends under certain conditions and allows MoneyGram to solicit alternative offers (the original “go shop” had ended earlier this month).

Morgan Stanley Private Equity has agreed to acquire a 60 percent stake in the U.S. business of listed Australian child care company ABC Learning Centres Ltd. The deal gives the U.S. unit an enterprise value of $775 million, which represents a 14.1x EBITDA multiple. It is expected to close by the end of next month.

NetCentrum, operator of Czech web portal, has acquired Slokak web portal from EPIC Holding. The deal is valued at more than €20 million, and will result in 4.9 million combined monthly users. NetCentrum is controlled by Warburg Pincus.

Nuprecon, a Snoqualmie, Wash.-based demolition contractor owned by Evergreen Pacific Partners, has merged with fellow demolition contractor CRS Environmental, which is based in Brea, California. No financial terms were disclosed. Evergreen Pacific provided equity for the deal, while debt was provided by Banc of America Capital Solutions, Prudential Capital Group and Prudential Capital Partners. Houlihan Lokey provided advisory services.

Palladium Equity Partners has agreed to acquire American Gilsonite Co. (OTC BB: AGTC), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based miner and producer of a variety of asphaltite called uintaite. The deal is valued at $74 million, and is expected to close this month. The Breckenridge Group advised ACG on the deal.

Pegasus Capital Advisors has acquired an undisclosed position in National Strategies Inc., a Washington, D.C.–based consultancy that helps businesses sell to local and state governments. No financial terms were disclosed.

PlayCore Inc., a playground equipment maker owned by Bear Stearns Merchant Banking, has acquired Robertson Industries Inc., a maker of surfacing building products. No financial terms were disclosed.

Private equity groups are “actively considering” launching a takeover bid for cable TV operator Virgin Media Inc. (VMED), according to a report in the Observer. Blackstone, Cinven, KKR and Providence Equity are ready to offer between $6 billion and $7.5 billion for the company, in which Richard Branson‘s Virgin Group holds a 10.5 percent stake, according to a private document entitled “Project Coaxial,” which the Observer claimed to have seen.

Progress Energy (PGN) has completed the sale of its unregulated assets to an investor group that includes Kelso & Co., Pegasus Capital Advisors and Traxys North America. The deal is valued at $94 million in cash, and includes Powell Mountain Coal Co., Dulcimer Land Co. and Kanawha River Terminals Inc.

Providence Equity Partners has received FTC approval for a deal to buy online nursing education company Assessment Technologies Institute LLC. No financial terms were disclosed.

Realogy Corp., a global provider of real estate and relocation services, has acquired a minority stake in Century 21 China Real Estate, an independently-owned company that serves as the master franchisor for Realogy’s Century 21 brand in China. No financial terms were disclosed. Apollo Management bought Realogy last year in a take-private buyout worth approximately $9 billion.

Restoration Hardware Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTO) said that it will stick with a $4.50 per share buyout offer from Catterton Partners, despite a $4.55 per share offer made last week by Sears Holding Corp. (Nasdaq: SHLD). Restoration said that the Sears offer came with “significant uncertainties” compared to the Catterton offer, which rendered it inferior.

The Riverside Company has acquired EM Test Group, a Switzerland-based manufacturer of electromagnetic compatibility test and measurement instrumentation. No financial terms were disclosed.

Stonehenge Capital has acquired Dixie-Southern Constructors Inc., a Duette, Fla.-based steel fabricator specializing in pressure vessels, tanks, piping and plate work. No financial terms were disclosed. Two employee investors also participated on the buyside.

Sun Capital Partners has received European Commission approval on its proposed acquisition of parts of Arcandor AG‘s mail order unit The transaction was analyzed under the EU’s ‘simplified’ merger review procedure for cases which the commission believes do not pose competition concerns. No financial details were disclosed.

SunGard has acquired the corporate payments unit of Payformance Corp., a Jacksonville, Fla.-based provider of payment processing solutions for corporations and health care organizations. No financial terms were disclosed. SunGard was acquired in 2005 by seven private equity firms, while Payformance has raised over $26 million in VC funding from firms like ABS Capital Partners, Stonehenge Capital and Wachovia Capital Associates.

Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC) has completed the sale of its Application Performance Management business to Vector Capital. The unit will operate as a standalone business named Precise Software Solutions Inc. No financial terms were disclosed. In related news, Vector said Greylock Partners is also participating on the deal, and that former Benchmark Capital partner Mark Kremer will serve as Precise’s CEO.

Totes-Isotoner Corp., a maker of cold-weather accessories like gloves and footwear, has acquired Northern Cap Holdings Inc., a Minneapolis-based maker of branded and private label headwear and gloves. No financial terms were disclosed. Toes-Isotoner is a portfolio company of MidOcean Partners, with Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co. holding a minority position.

TPG Capital and Sumitomo Heavy Industries have increased their unsolicited offer for Axcelis Technologies Inc. (ACLS) from $5.20 per share to $6 per share, after having their initial bid rejected. The revised offer increases the overall deal value from $544 million to $630 million. Axcelis makes ion implantation devices for chip makers.

Treadstone Capital Management and Drum Capital Management have acquired a controlling interest in the assets of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, a Freeland, Wash.-based manufacturer of steel and aluminum boats. Nichols had filed for bankruptcy protection last November, and the buyers have committed to invest up to $15 million in new working capital.

USI Holdings Corp., a Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.–based distributor of insurance and financial services to businesses, has acquired Corporate Planning Systems, a Bellevue, Wash.-based employee benefit insurance brokerage. No financial terms were disclosed, except that the deal is expected to provide USI with approximately $4.5 million in additional annual revenue. USI is owned by Goldman Sachs Capital Partners.

Veritext, a court reporting firm owned by The Riverside Company, has acquired Staten Island-based Priority One Court Reporting Services Inc. No financial terms were disclosed.

Vitamin Shoppe, a North Bergen, N.J.-based retailer and direct marketer of vitamins, minerals and nutritionalsupplements, has agreed to acquire five Nutrition Depot retail locations in Florida’s Broward and Palm Beach Counties. It will convert each of them into Vitamin Shoppe stores. No financial terms were disclosed. Vitamin Shoppe has been owned by Bear Stearns Merchant Banking in 2002.

WL Ross & Co. has agreed to invest up to $1 billion in bond insurer Assured Guaranty Ltd. (NYSE: AGO). The deal includes an initial purchase of $250 million in common shares, and a commitment to purchase another $750 million in common shares at the company’s option. Merrill Lynch advised Assured Guaranty on the deal.