In brief top news 2

LBO France, an independent buyout firm, is understood to have completed the buyout of Wheelabrator Allevard, a company making grinding tools. LBO France has mandated Royal Bank of Scotland for the reported €350m (US$431.2m) of debt to support the secondary buyout from Wendel Investissement. The equity slug is about €65m. Advised by Rothschild, Wendel put Wheelabrator up for sale in June and LBO France went into exclusive talks in July.

  • UK Coal, the loss-making mining operator, which has been the subject of takeover speculation since February 2005, has agreed to meet with members of a consortium comprising Alchemy Partners, Morston Assets and the Buccleuch Group. The meeting follows a “clarification” of certain issues raised by a tentative approach that UK Coal first announced in April, before breaking off talks in June. According to UK Coal, “the proposal remains highly preliminary and tentative.”

On September 7 the company also issued its interim report for the six months to June 30 2005, showing a loss of £30.6m, but an £58.3m increase in the gross valuation of the property portfolio following an independent valuation. UK Coal’s property portfolio is considered its prime asset, although there is a complex tax situation. The group is led by US coal mining veteran Gerry Spindler, who was introduced in October 2004 to undertake a restructuring, with Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein appointed as financial adviser in March 2005.

  • After seeing a 20% jump in its share price on confirmation of takeover talks worth about £1.2bn (US$2.2bn), UK-listed van hire company Northgate is reportedly receiving attention from private equity firms. GE Capital, the financial services arm of US conglomerate General Electric, was initially mooted as the potential acquirer but reports in the Financial Times on September 12 said UK-based buyout firm Terra Firma had also approached the firm. On that day, shares were trading at £12.19 each, valuing the company at about £800m, excluding £400m of debt.

In a statement Northgate said: “The board notes the recent press speculation regarding the company. The company announces that it has received an approach. There can be no certainty that any offer will be forthcoming.” The news followed its deal in September to buy an initial 49% of Spanish van rental group Record Rent a Car, which was first announced in July for up to US$166.7m.