Last word

Bridgepoint has bought a controlling stake in First Credit, the debt purchase and debt collection business as part of a £72m buyout. The firm is buying a 48% stake from Gresham, with mezzanine finance from ICG and senior debt from Barclays. According to the Credit Services Association, total debt passed to debt collection agencies in the UK exceeds £5bn per annum. The market for outsourced debt has grown by 70% over the last two years.

Andrew Burgess, director of Bridgepoint in London, says the consumer debt market is forecast to show continuing growth dynamics. Hence, in addition to consolidating its position in the UK, First Credit will target acquisitions with the help of Bridgepoint’s European network. Deloitte advised Gresham and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Travers Smith Braithwaite and Deloitte advised Bridgepoint.

Its investments are renowned for their rarity value, but Charterhouse is following up its recent Saga deal with another investment. The firm is teaming up with CDC to acquire France Telecom’s remaining 36% stake in Telediffusion de France. The pair are offering €390m for the tower business. Charterhouse and CDC acquired a 64% stake in the business in December 2003 for €1.65bn. France Telecom confirmed it has been approached by existing shareholders. TDF owns broadcasting towers and facilities in France, Spain, Monaco, Finland, Poland and Estonia, selling capacity to broadcasting companies. In 2003 it had revenue of €895m.

Law firm Herbert Smith has completed its first leveraged finance transaction for Royal Bank of Scotland. It advised the corporate and structured finance group at RBS in regard to funding for Cygnet Healthcare, a provider of psychiatric treatment and long-term care in the UK independent healthcare sector.

Leveraged and acquisition finance specialist Malcolm Hitching, who was seconded to the London leveraged finance group of RBS between 1999 and 2000, led for Herbert Smith. He was assisted by associate Paul McKay. Herbert Smith’s international finance practice has over 100 debt finance lawyers worldwide. It has a formal alliance with the German firm, Gleiss Lutz, and the lDutch and Belgian firm, Stibbe.