Inflexion to strike oil with Viking sale

Viking Moorings, a Scottish provider of mooring systems and associated products to the North Sea offshore oil and gas industry, is back on the auction block with Norwegian private equity group HitecVision the likely winner.

According to reports, Inflexion Private Equity hired NM Rothschild in June to find potential buyers for Viking Moorings, which the London and Manchester-based private equity firm has owned for more than two years.

A sale is expected to be completed by the end of the summer as Inflexion Private Equity looks to cash in on the current oil price boom. Media sources said that an information memorandum suggested a price tag for Viking Moorings of £180m to £200m, which is a substantial premium to Inflexion’s original buyout, but that the price had not put off potential buyers, including HitecVision. Inflexion Private Equity declined to comment on the speculation.

Tim Smallbone, who heads up Inflexion Private Equity’s Manchester office, led the £22m management buyout of the Aberdeen, Singapore and Stavanger, Norway-based oil services group, at the time a subsidiary of marine and mooring business Balmoral Group. In January 2006, Inflexion injected £9m of equity for a majority shareholding, complemented by a £16m package of debt facilities provided by Royal Bank of Scotland.

At the time, Inflexion Private Equity said that its purchase of Viking Moorings had been driven by the high price of oil stimulating a surge in offshore activity in the North Sea. The financing was used to invest more than £10m in research and development, as well as new builds.

Both Inflexion Private Equity and HitecVision, which is itself headquartered in Stavanger and has offices in Aberdeen as well as Houston and Oslo, have previous form in the oil and gas sector.

Since its purchase of Viking Moorings, Inflexion Private Equity has also bought SMD, a UK designer and manufacturer of sub-sea vehicle systems primarily used in the oil and gas, submarine telecoms and oceanographic industries; and PG Holdings, a now realised oil pump manufacturer acquired in 1999.

Viking Moorings was acquired from Inflexion Private Equity’s £150m 2003 fund. The firm has since raised a £165m fund in 2006, which is currently more than 30% invested.

HitecVision specialises in buyouts and growth-stage investment in European and North American oil and gas assets. Its portfolio includes Noreco, an acquisitive Norwegian oil group, Noble Denton, an offshore and marine consulting firm, and Poseidon Group, a supplier of engineering, system solutions, technology and consultant services within construction, operation and maintenance of subsea oil and gas fields. The firm is currently investing through HitecVision V, a US$800m fund raised in February of this year.