news in brief

ECI Partners has bought Kelvin Hughs, a marine navigation technology manufacturer, from technology company Smiths Group for £52m (€72.5m). The transaction involves £48m in cash on completion in addition to a deferred payment of up to £4m based on performance. Management also invested alongside ECI in the deal. Royal Bank of Scotland provided debt financing, Capital Source Europe provided mezzanine. ING Corporate Finance, Deloitte, SJ Berwin and Andeman advised ECI. Management was advised by Liberty Corporate Finance and Addleshaw Goddard. Kelvin Hughes’ products include radar sensors and display technology, voyage data recorders, electronic chart systems integrated bridge systems.

3i backed Chorion, the UK-based owner and manager of classic and contemporary literary-based brands such as Mr Men and Noddy, has bought for The Copyrights Group, which owns the Beatrix Potter and Paddington Bear brands, among others an undisclosed amount.

Graphite Enterprise Trust, a quoted investment trust managed by UK mid-market firm Graphite Capital, has sold its 46% stake in Huntress Group, a white collar recruitment specialist, to a Nomura-backed management buyout team. The sale, understood to be approximately £40m (US$82m), along with a £13.5m refinancing in 2005 from Barclays, has provided the trust with an internal rate of return of 38.5% and 7.6 times the original 2000 buyout. Huntress provides permanent and temporary staff in the commercial (secretarial and office assistance), accountancy and finance and technology sectors, which combined account for a UK market worth of approximately £8.8bn in revenues. Under Graphite’s guidance, Huntress has rolled out the model to 17 offices across the UK and produced compound annual growth in revenue of more than 40% in the past five years.

3i Group has taken a substantial majority stake in Agent Provocateur, according to industry sources. The sources claim that the total value of the transaction is about £60m (US$124m), part of which will be used to fund the international expansion of the lingerie retailer. As designated chairman of Agent Provocateur, 3i has appointed Stuart Rose, the former deputy chairman and managing director of The Body Shop. In October 2007, reports claimed that Marks & Spencer Group was considering buying the licence for its Agent Provocateur-designed Salon Rose underwear in order to ensure that the brand will continue to be sold in its stores. Agent Provocateur was founded in 1994 by Joseph Corre and Serena Rees. Corre will be staying with the business as Creative Director. Rees said: “From the conception of Agent Provocateur in Soho in ’94, we have provoked thought and reaction, we brought lingerie to the forefront of fashion, brought sexuality out into the open and have given sex a sense of luxury.”