Finnish exit for Bridgepoint

Bridgepoint has sold refrigeration specialist Huurre Group in a secondary buyout to Nordic investment bank Kaupthing, which is backing the company’s management team. Senior bank loan facility for the transaction, reported to be worth around €90 million, was provided by Bank of Scotland. Chris Busby of Bridgepoint in Stockholm said the return on the investment was healthy.

Under Bridgepoint’s ownership the company has expanded through organic growth and acquisitions such as Prepan of Norway in 1999 and in 2000 Svensk Butiksservice, the Swedish refrigeration maintenance and installation division of the leading grocery retail chain ICA.

Last year the group delivered a turnover of €146.9 million with an EBITDA of €14.3 million and an EBIT of €11.4 million. Huurre employs 833 people. During 2002, the group centralised its after-market operations into a new strategic business unit called Huurre Service, which specialises in commercial refrigeration solutions, air conditioning and cooling off processes as well as maintenance and spare part services.

Huurre Group, which has its headquartered in Tampere, Finland, was acquired by Bridgepoint in 1998. The VC invested FIM88 million (€14.8 million) in the original buyout from Merita, the Finnish arm of Swedish-Finnish banking group MeritaNordbanken, which valued the company at FIM220 million (€37 million). Co-investors included Foinco, a Norweigan investment company that was the private equity backer of one of Huurre’s acquisitions, and Tapiola, a mutual Finnish insurance group.

Lars Lindell, the managing director backed by Bridgepoint, will continue to lead the company’s management team. He said: “The business has been very successful under Bridgepoint’s ownership. The same management team looks forward to repeating this success with Kaupthing Bank and to taking the group forward to even greater levels of achievement.”

The new owners plan to further consolidate the European refrigeration industry and add to the organic growth of Huurre by focusing on growing the service side of the business. The plans of the group for this year are based on expectations of controlled growth in the main market area of the Nordic region and Northern Europe.

This deal is only the second secondary buyout in Finland. Helgi Bergs, senior vice president at Kaupthing, said: “We at Kaupthing are very excited by the opportunity to enter the Finnish private equity investment landscape through this acquisition. Huurre as a company fits our target profile of a proprietary investment case and we have a strong faith in the management and personnel of the company.”

Kaupthing Bank focuses its investment activity on mid-size industrial and service companies, its current portfolio amounts to approximately €200 million. Investments include Bakkavör Group (the acquisition of the food production company Katsouris Fresh Foods in the UK), Baugur Group (the acquisition and sale of part of Arcadia in the UK) and the fashion retailer Karen Millen.