Last word

Three bids have been submitted for Vertex, the United Utilities owned business processes outsourcing (BPO) unit. A source close to the situation said two bids by private equity firms and one trade bid were submitted when the deadline for a Merrill Lynch managed sale closed on November 20. The bids are thought likely to value Vertex at around £400 (US$760m), somewhat short of earlier estimates.In June United Utilities mandated Merrill Lynch to review the market for its non-regulated business process outsourcing unit. The Vertex business has a turnover of £400m (US$737m) per annum, and was developed internally to manage administrative and customer processes within United Utilities 10 years ago, non-group clients now account for 75% of the unit’s business. The three bidders are not thought to include either India’s Tata Group whose steel division is currently chasing Anglo-Dutch steel group Corus, or a consortium of Indian BPO entrepreneur Raman Roy and 3i, both of which showed early interest.

  • AXA Private Equity, the private equity arm of French insurance group AXA, has acquired CABB, a German speciality chemicals company, for an undisclosed sum. Gilde, a Belgian private equity firm sold its 70% stake in CABB, with company management holding the balance. CABB produces speciality chemicals for the PVC, pharmaceutical, agrochemical and personal care industries in Europe, North America and South America. The company said that AXA Private Equity’s investment would enable it to expand its position in the US market. CABB has two production sites in Germany, a total of 300 employees, and estimated sales of €140m (US$180m) in 2006. Gilde also announced today that it has paid €60m for Uniq Belgium, the Belgian salads business of UK food group Uniq. Uniq Belgium reported EBIT of €6.2m in the year to 31 March 2006 and gross assets of €58m.