news in brief

SMC group, the £11.6m UK firm of architects, has ceased discussions with a private equity bidder. The company announced that: “Further to the announcement made on 12 October 2007 stating that the Board of SMC was in ongoing discussions with a private equity-backed third party for a potential offer for the Group, the Board of SMC announces that all offer discussions have now ceased.”

Tommy Hilfiger, a US-based clothing brand owned by global private equity firm Apax Partners, has appointed investment banks Citi and Credit Suisse to investigate a European listing. London is a potential destination for a flotation likely to value the business at up to €3bn. Apax Partners bought an 80% stake in Tommy Hilfiger for US$1.6bn in 2005 after the business had experienced a downturn in sales in the US. Under Apax’s ownership, the brand has become more European-focused, with sales in Europe growing from £200m in 2003 to more than £400m in 2006. Apax’s other fashion interests include US footwear brand Reebok and UK retail chain New Look, co-owned with Permira. Earlier this year, Apax was also reported to have shown an interest in German sportswear brand Adidas.

Global Garden Products, an Italy-based lawn mower and powered garden equipment manufacturer, has been bought by 3i, a London-listed private equity firm, in a transaction which values the business at €730m. The vendors were ABN Amro Capital, the private equity arm of the Dutch bank, and AAC Capital Partners, the Northern European operations of ABN Amro Capital, which spun out in September. Existing management of Global Garden Products have invested alongside 3i. Global Garden Products was put up for sale by ABN Amro Capital in July, with UBS handling the auction process. The vendors were advised by UBS, Dewey & Leboeuf and PricewaterhouseCoopers, while 3i was advised by Morgan Stanley, Studio Chiomenti and KPMG. Headquartered in Castelfranco Veneto, Italy, Global Garden Products manufactures walk-behind and ride-on lawnmowers as well as a range of hand-held gardening equipment and accessories, with leading brands including Stiga, Castelgarden, Mountfield, Alpina and Below, along with products for OEMs including John Deere and Honda. The group has 15 subsidiaries in Europe, China and Russia, employing 1,800 people and has sales to year end August 31 2007 of €546m and €84m EBITDA.