In brief top news

Nordic-focused private equity partnership Segulah has made its largest purchase to date with the acquisition of Hexagon Automation, a Nordic automation group with origins in formerly listed AB Nils Dacke and Berendsen PMC. The deal is also the first investment for Segulah III, a middle-market fund that closed at €260m last year. Hexagon’s revenues for 2004 were SKr2.3bn, based on operating profit of SKr151m.

  • Peter Charlton has been elected global head of Clifford Chance’s corporate practice. He takes up the role from July 1 from current practice leader David Childs, who is standing down to concentrate on his role as chief operating officer. Charlton has been managing partner of Clifford Chance in London and Dubai since January 2000. He became a partner in the firm in 1986. Charlton’s election manifesto underlined the corporate group’s target of increasing revenues by 10% every year and focused on building synergies between Asia and the rest of the firm’s global network, as well as growth in the Middle East.
  • The board of UK Coal said it was no longer engaged in any discussions with Jon Moulton’s Alchemy Partners. According to a company statement, UK Coal did receive a tentative approach in February from a company associated with the private equity group. Details of a possible takeover were never agreed, however, and UK Coal said last week that is sees no reason to believe that the approach would lead to an acceptable offer.
  • Bjorn Jansli, CEO of German insurance company Gerling, confirmed that the family-owned group was in talks with potential bidders.

The company could sell for around US$1bn. Although Jansli did not name any of the bidders, he said he had “no phobia of locusts”, alluding to recent anti-private equity comments from German politician Franz Muntefering.

  • Apax Partners sold down its residual 12% stake in Italian fund management company Azimut, in a deal that involved more banks than some observers thought necessary. The accelerated bookbuild of 17.1m shares was priced at €5.05, a 2.3% discount to the previous closing price. Proceeds amounted to €86.4m. The deal was led by Merrill Lynch and UBM, both the bookrunners on Azimut’s €380m IPO in July 2004, but on this occasion they were joined by Mediobanca and Cazenove. The leads went out with a soft launch and gained some useful US orders. Bankers said the deal was notable for the fact that more Italian investors were attracted to the story. The IPO had seen a relatively disappointing take-up from domestic accounts.