Fortis spin out closes first independent fund

NesBIC spin-out Bencis Capital Partners closed its first independent buyout fund with €250m in commitments. The vehicle had an initial €200m target, and includes commitments from Allianz, AXA and Fortis.

Bencis was established through a spin-out of NesBIC’s buyout team from NesBIC Groep, a Fortis subsidiary. Fortis was a cornerstone investor in NesBIC’s first buyout fund, to which it committed €66m. BancBoston Capital joined at the same level.

The first deal from the new fund is the acquisition of

Meneba, a producer of grain specialities based in the Netherlands and Belgium, from CVC. The transaction is expected to be completed within the next few months. Going forward, Bencis will target other mature businesses in the Dutch and Belgian middle market.

The firm also administers the existing NesBIC buyout fund, which was established in 2000. That has a portfolio of eight companies, including Brouwer Group, which was acquired in July. Eurochem, one of the other portfolio companies, recently acquired a competitor, Holvoet, to strengthen its position in Belgium and northern France.

Members of the NesBIC buyout team that did not join Bencis are due to join Fortis by the end of the year. Fortis Private Equity is a middle market Dutch player that targets companies with enterprise values of up to €150m.

Meneba’s products are mostly sold to bakeries and the pet and animal feed industries. The company also supplies non-food companies with products extracted or processed from grains. Its 650 staff generate an annual turnover of approximately €350m.

The Dutch buyout market has been extremely active this year in comparison with 2003. According to Thomson Financial figures, there have been 50 deals this year for a collective value of US$7bn. This compares with less than 10 buyouts last year for a combined value of about US$1bn. The figures for this year include two jumbo transactions, however – VNU World Directories and Koninklijke Vendex – valued at US$2.5bn and US$2.7bn, respectively.

Most of the overall activity was conducted in the second and third quarters. Retail together with media and entertainment have been the busiest sectors. There have been 13 buyouts in the retail sector, worth around US$2.75bn, while numbers and volumes for the media and entertainment sector in the year to-date are running more or less at the same levels.