Exits in brief

The European nursing home sector continues to yield deals at a busy pace. EAC, a London-based private equity group, sold Reacti-Malt to Suren group, a subsidiary of Batipart, for €100m. The move follows a series of deals in the same sector in the UK. Blackstone has acquired NHP and Southern Cross Healthcare.

Four Seasons and Westminster Healthcare were sold recently to private equity buyers.

Batipart outbid Bridgepoint to acquire Reacti-Malt, which is also known as Renaissance Group. Interest in the sector is driven by an ageing population, cash generation prospects for nursing homes and the fragmented nature of the industry.

  • 3i sold Page & Moy, the UK independent tour operator, to Travelsphere, one of the top three direct sell UK tour operators. Travelsphere received a significant investment from HgCapital four years ago. 3i invested £1.6m in Page & Moy in 1993, as part of a management buyout from Barclays. The two companies will continue to function under their separate brands while benefiting from considerable economies of scale through joint purchasing and marketing. The combined business will form the UK’s largest direct-sell overseas escorted holiday provider for the 45+ age group, with sales of some £175m.
  • West Private Equity sold the schools division of its portfolio company, Asquith Court, to Cognita, a schools group backed by Englefield Capital and chaired by Chris Woodhead, a former Inspector of Schools. This is the second disposal from WPE’s current fund, following Southern Cross in September, which made a 65% IRR. Through add-on acquisitions and organic growth, Asquith Court has increased the number of its children by 71% under WPE’s ownership. Sales have grown by 58%.
  • George Soros sold 14.6m shares of Eircom through a block trade. Soros is one of the investors in the Valentia consortium that bought out the telecoms operator in 2001, then floated it in March 2004. The €24m deal was executed by Morgan Stanley. The shares were priced on the morning of December 7 at €1.64, flat to the close on December 6. The stock, which went primarily to UK accounts, represented 2% of the company. The shares closed the following day at €1.67. The same two banks led a €43m placing of eircom stock on October 26 at €1.56. That deal was on behalf of Providence Equity Partners, another member of the Valentia consortium.
  • UK private equity firm Graphite Capital backed the secondary buy-out of Aktrion, the UK-based managed outsourced services group, from existing majority shareholder Bridgepoint. Graphite Capital partner Andy Gray said: ‘(Aktrion) is ideally placed to take advantage of the expected strong growth in its marketplace.

Research suggests that the European business process outsourcing market alone will nearly double to more than £40bn in the five years to 2006. Graphite Capital recently completed the sale of Maplin Electronics, the UKs fastest growing retailer of electronic and computer components. Montagu Private Equity paid £244m to acquire the business from Graphite Capital and the management team.