French secondary buyout for EAC

5a Sec, the world’s largest dry cleaning franchising chain based in France, has been bought by UK-based mid market buyout house, European Acquisition Capital (EAC) in a secondary buyout transaction.

The terms were not disclosed. EAC invested in the transaction from its fund II, which is now 90 per cent invested, and its fund III. EAC is in the midst of raising fund III, for euros400 million. Fund II raised euros205 million.

EAC’s purchase is supported by debt funding packages supplied by BNP Paribas, Caisse D’Epargne France, Credit Lyonnais and Credit du Nord.

EAC bought 5 a Sec from SPEF and BNP Developpement. SPEF is an investment bank for small and medium-sized businesses and is the financial engineering firm of the Banques Populaires group. SPEF specialises in venture and development capital and LBOs.

Both BNP Developpement and SPEF backed chief executive Peter Aepli when he led a management buy-in to the business in 1998, alongside Jean-Marie Charles. Both remain with the business under EAC’s ownership.

Aepli is the former president of Minit speciality service chain where he successfully developed the franchise’s expansion.

5 a Sec, which operates under the 5 a Sec and Top Net brands, is well established across Europe, as well as France where it has six per cent of the French market by number of shops. It is also expanding its operations in Asia and South America and the group has a turnover in excess of euros200 million on a total of nearly 1,300 outlets over half of which are located outside France.

“We plan to open new corporate-owned outlets each year and strengthen our partnerships with large international shopping centre developers and operators such as Auchan, Carrefour, Casino, ECE Germany, Tesco and Wal Mart, CGC, Jones Lang LaSalle, Healey & Baker and others that provide us with prime retail space in desirable locations in Europe,” said Aepli.

Erick Rinner, who led the investment for EAC and will join 5 a Sec’s board, said: “We know Peter Aepli well and are attracted by his proven ability to pursue and succeed with a fast track growth strategy. We expect the planned acquisitions and the larger proportion of owned shops will soon have a very positive impact on both revenues and profits.”