Deals round-up – PRIVATE EQUITY: Bridgepoint gets new name in lights

Bridgepoint Capital, the independent reincarnation of NatWest Equity Partners, sealed two European buyouts in the first week of June. Aura Group, a company formed by Bridgepoint Capital and management, acquired Auralight, the Swedish manufacturer of fluorescent tubes, from Durolite International of the US. The SKr 205 million (EURO24.5 million) acquisition also encompassed Aura Industrier and Duralite Europe. SE Banken provided debt facilities for the deal.

Auralight, based in Karlskrona, specialises in the manufacture of long-life fluorescent tubes for large, remote or inaccessible locations such as billboards, road tunnels, power stations and oil rigs. The company generates most of its SKr200 million plus turnover in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, with a small proportion of sales in Australia, Japan and Russia. Auralight looks set to become a platform for further acquisitions. Managing director Krister Issal comments that: “There is scope for further acquisitions to provide us with a larger platform from which to market our products”, while Bridgepoint director Graham Oldroyd observes: “With growing sales outside the Nordic countries and good prospects for new product launches and additional acquisitions in Europe, we believe that Auralight’s management team is capable of taking the business to its next logical stage of development”.

Also in early June, Bridgepoint announced the DM50 million buyout of German staffing agency Management 2000 from founding shareholders Dirk Handeler and Rudi Bork.

Set up in 1992 and headquartered in Cologne, Management 2000 places skilled blue-collar workers nationwide, operating six brands targeting niche customer segments in the German industrial sector. Management 2000 is able to capitalise on the asymmetry between the employment markets in the former East and West Germanies, hiring skilled unemployed workers in the East and placing them in the West where unemployment is lower and the skill base weaker. The group has enjoyed an impressive rate of growth, boosting sales by more than 70 per cent in 1999 following a 50 per cent increase in the preceding year. Dr Tony Bunker of Bridgepoint’s Dusseldorf office says the company has ambitions to expand further by acquisition as well as by maintaining its organic growth in the context of a German staffing market that is expected to grow by 15 per cent to 20 per cent annually.