Young?s Bluecrest proves a good catch for LGV

Legal & General Ventures has realised its 1998 investment in seafood business Young’s Bluecrest to CapVest Limited in a secondary buyout. LGV’s 79 per cent stake was sold debt-free in a transaction valued at £137 million.

LGV originally invested £59 million to acquire the fish division of Booker, which was subsequently renamed Bluecrest Seafood. The financing comprised £16 million equity provided by LGV funds; a £5 million mezzanine loan provided by Mithras Investment Trust and Natwest Acquisition Finance; and a £38 million term loan and working capital facilities provided by NatWest Acquisition Finance.

In July 1999, Bluecrest merged with United Biscuits (UB) frozen seafood business, Youngs. UB and LGV each held 44 per cent of the equity of the enlarged business and management and other private investors held the balance. In addition to its equity participation, UB received £15 million in cash, £6 million of mezzanine debt in the joint venture and £9 million of deferred consideration.

A year ago, LGV acquired UB’s shareholding in Young’s Bluecrest increasing its stake to 79 per cent. For UB, the sale represented a successful exit from the joint venture with the proceeds representing an IRR of 35 per cent on its equity investment.

Commenting on the company’s development. Wynne Griffiths, chief executive, Young’s Bluecrest, said: “The merger of Young’s Bluecrest was a tremendous challenge for the management team. The key to its success was the support from our customers, suppliers, employees and LGV which gave us the opportunity in the first place and shared our vision for the business.”

Young’s Bluecrest is now the largest processor of frozen, chilled and fresh seafood in the UK with a turnover of around £320 million. Today the group holds almost 30 per cent of the total frozen and chilled seafood market with best-selling brands such as Young’s, Chip Shop and Ross.

LGV director, Michael O’Donnell, said: “LGV’s investment in Young’s Bluecrest played to many of our strengths. A consumer products business which combines own label and branded goods; a business in need of manufacturing rationalisation and brand investment; an opportunity to buy and build with a trade partner and most importantly the opportunity to working alongside a committed management team with the ability to deliver results.”

LGV has enjoyed several successful realisations over the past year including Santé Finance and Espace Verts. It also recently acquired French casino operator Moliflor Loisirs for over €400 million.