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Thomas Cook’s Nordic business lives on after private equity deal

A trio of investors—including two private equity firms—has teamed up to save Thomas Cook’s Nordic business a month after the British travel company suddenly declared bankruptcy, delisted its shares, ceased operations and stranded more than 150,000 customers.

European buyout firms Altor Equity Partners and TDR Capital, along with Norwegian real estate tycoon Petter Stordalen’s Strawberry Group, are slated to assume ownership of the Ving Group, as the Northern Europe unit is called. The group employs 2,300 people across charter businesses in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, along with Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia.

Strawberry Group and Altor will each buy 40 percent of Ving, while TDR Capital will purchase the remaining 20 percent, though no price was revealed. Following the acquisition, the investors will work to secure approximately 6 billion Swedish kronor (about $618 million) in liquidity and guarantees for the business.

Unlike the larger Thomas Cook Group, which was founded in the 1840s to serve the burgeoning British middle class, Ving has recently proved itself profitable. Some of the Ving units will declare bankruptcy in order to facilitate the redirection of all businesses to a freshly established company created by its new owners, but the company’s sale will ensure 400,000 people who have booked upcoming trips will be able to travel without issue.

“[The deal] secures the business and creates a stable foundation for future development,” Harald Mix, a partner at Altor, said in a statement.

Altor, based in Stockholm, has raised five funds since its creation in 2003. It has invested in more than 60 middle-market Northern European companies, worth a total of €8.3 billion (about $9.25 billion).

TDR Capital, founded in 2002, manages €8 billion in assets and is headquartered in London. It also focuses on mid-market companies, with a preference for growth-oriented investments.

Strawberry Group maintains 11 companies and invests primarily across the real estate, finance, hospitality and art industries. Stordalen is a Norwegian billionaire who, along with his three children, also owns the region’s largest resort chain, Nordic Choice Hotels. The brand operates 180 luxury hotels across five countries.

The buyout of Thomas Cook’s Nordic unit may be one of the more dramatic deals in recent memory, but it fits cleanly into the bigger picture of the region’s PE landscape. Nordic dealmakers such as Altor have maintained a relatively consistent slice of the European private equity pie over the past decade. As of September 30, Nordic PE deal value this year totaled about €26 billion, about 11% of overall European deal value, per PitchBook’s 3Q 2019 European PE Breakdown. Through the past decade, the Nordic region’s deals have largely hovered around that same share of the total.

 

Read More – www.pitchbook.com

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WeWork has acquired more than 20 companies in the run-up to its IPO

In their endeavors to scale operations and improve their brands, VC-backed companies have turned to robust M&A activity in recent years. Taking notes from consumer-facing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, who led the way to establish how private companies can grow from strategic acquisitions before their historic rides to the public markets, WeWork has acquired 21 startups to date, with a bulk of those investments sealed in the last three years.

The co-working giant raised nearly $1 billion in VC funding before it made its first acquisition in 2015 with Case, which provides building design and information-modeling services. And in a bid to either grow the current business or explore opportunities in other industries, WeWork is currently one of the most active VC-backed acquirers in the space.

How many of those investments were directly related to the company’s space-as-a-service offering? According to a recent PitchBook analyst note, the split of acquisitions made by WeWork related to the core business versus noncore is an estimated 60-40. Notable acquisitions that currently have little to do with WeWork’s office rental focus include Flatiron School, which offers a coding education platform and Islands Media, the developer of a messaging app for college students.

The co-working giant revealed mounting losses in its S-1 filing last month. However, its appetite to acquire startups that range from the developer an office sign-in system to a behavior-analytics platform, indicates that buying tech or venturing beyond its core business via an acquisition seems to be the preferred route for WeWork, instead of building the same thing in-house.

While mega-deals from deep-pocketed investors such as SoftBank or eye-popping valuation step-ups may have favored WeWork’s acquisition strategies so far, it’s difficult to say whether the business will continue to pick up startups at the same rate in the future, especially as it plans to seek a valuation of between $20 billion and $30 billion in its upcoming IPO, slashing its last private market valuation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Read More – www.pitchbook.com

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Why Domino’s Pizza sell-off was overcooked

Hungry bargain hunters gobbled up shares in Domino’s, correctly betting than an early slump was unfair.

After selling 12 pizzas every second on New Year’s Day, the rest of 2019 certainly hasn’t panned out in the same emphatic fashion for Domino’s Pizzaor its investors.

Shares slumped as much as 12 per cent in early deals, undoing all the rally of the past six weeks, as the company warned that its international operation would no longer break even this year. Its UK business of more than 1,100 stores also underwhelmed the City with like-for-like sales growth of 3.1 per cent in the quarter to March 31.

The fall-out from the first quarter update continues the poor run of form for the FTSE 250 stock, which had been testing the 400p barrier as recently as last summer.

Last week’s UK figures were distorted by tough comparatives from a year earlier after a £1.99 promotion helped to boost like-for-like sales by 7 per cent in Q1 2018. Volumes were down 2.7 per cent in the most recent period, despite that bumper New Year’s Day when 516,500 pizzas were sold.

Analysts at Numis are relaxed about the first quarter performance in the UK, particularly as like-for-like sales on a two-year basis continue the 10 per cent growth rate seen in Q4.

Numis left its forecast unchanged for UK trading this year, although it is cutting group pre-tax profits by 5 per cent to £95 million due to the weaker guidance for the international division following its £4.1 million loss last year.

Domino’s reported “persistently weak” system sales in all its international markets, with trading visibility also limited. New management teams in Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are attempting to improve the performance, but in the meantime the company is tightening its focus on costs and capital deployment.

Numis said the continued poor performance of a business accounting for 10% of trade will leave some investors to ask if Domino’s should be deploying capital into loss-making markets.

However, the broker still remains supportive of Domino’s and its highly cash generative business model. Trading on 15 times 2019 earnings, Numis said the shares were attractively valued and expected them to re-rate back towards 340p over time.

Canaccord Genuity has a price target of 310p, while UBS thinks the shares are worth 245p. UBS analyst Heidi Richardson said the lack of an update on discussions with UK franchisees was also disappointing given the limited visibility on future store openings.

Seven new UK stores were added in the year to date, compared with the 58 added in the previous financial year. Domino’s admitted in full-year results that there were likely to be fewer new stores this year given the ongoing discussions with franchisees on commercial terms.

 

The shares have ebbed away since then, even though Domino’s deserves credit for continuing to show resilience in the face of competition from the likes of Just Eat (LSE:JE.) and Deliveroo. It’s also had the distraction of an ongoing dispute with franchisees, some of whom are fighting for a bigger slice of profits.

 

Read More – www.cityam.com

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Liberty London department store could be sold for £350m

The department store Liberty London has been put on the market with a potential £350m price tag.

The retail landmark, which was founded by Arthur Lasenby Liberty in 1875 with a £2,000 loan from his future father-in-law, has grown to become an international brand that sells its tana lawn fabrics and luxury leather goods around the world.

The private equity firm BlueGem bought Liberty for £32m in 2010 and refinanced it in 2014, reducing its stake to about 40% and allowing some investors to take cash out but nearly all to reinvest in buying the department store for £165m.

It is understood BlueGem is looking to offload its stake. It is unclear if other investors are willing to sell.

Group sales reached £133m in the year to February 2018, up 8% year on year, while pretax profits more than tripled to nearly £7m. About 60% of the store’s profits come from selling own-label merchandise.

The Tudor-revival store on Great Marlborough Street in central London opened in 1924 and has been extensively renovated by its current owners as a home for designer fashion as well as beauty, accessories, homewares and haberdashery.

The company was once listed on the London Stock Exchange but controlled by property company MWB Group. It lost money for years, making sales of about £70m and losses of £4.5m in 2009.

BlueGem had hoped to bring Liberty back to the stock market last year, but has now hired UBS to seek a private buyer, according to Sky News, which first reported the potential sale.

The retailer is on the market during a period of great upheaval for department stores, which face competition from online shopping and a squeeze on consumer spending.

House of Fraser went into administration last summer and was bought out by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct group. He also has his eye on Debenhams, which is struggling for survival after several years of poor trading and rising costs.

Read More – www.theguardian.com

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Fujifilm-Xerox merger back on track?

Japan’s Fujifilm has won an appeal in a legal fight with Xerox that had halted a planned merger between the firms.

Fujifilm now plans to push ahead with talks on the $6.1bn (£4.6bn) merger with the US printer maker, according to Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

In May, Xerox ended its controversial sale to Fujifilm after reaching a settlement with activist investors Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason.

But Fujifilm says its original deal remains the best option for shareholders in both companies.

“(The) Court’s decision will allow us to discuss with Xerox the fulfillment of the original agreement. All Xerox shareholders ought to be able to decide for themselves the operational, financial, and strategic merits of the transaction to combine Fuji Xerox and Xerox,” it said.

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Retail Mergers and Acquisitions Rise by 15% as Businesses Try to Combat Falling Sales

The number of retail sector mergers and acquisitions has grown by 15 per cent in the last year as companies try to make up for struggling sales, a new study reveals.

Figures compiled by law firm RPC show there have been 37 retail mergers and acquisitions (M&A) deals in the year to 31 March, compared with 32 in 2016-17.

RPC said the recently announced Asda and Sainsbury’s merger was a good example of the recent trend for businesses in the food side of the retail sector to “add economies of scale to make up for slowing organic sales growth”.

Firms are also favouring M&A over flotations, due to weak demand from investors. Selling up to a competitor is seen as a more secure way for existing investors to exit a smaller retailer than an IPO which could be cancelled at any point “due to short-term volatility or poor sentiment towards the sector”.

“Through mergers such as Asda and Sainsbury’s, market leaders are looking beyond all the hype about the ‘meltdown of the high street’ and getting on with building breadth of offering and scale,” said RPC corporate partner Karen Hendy.

However, while the number of deals has jumped, the overall value of those transactions has fallen 16 per cent to £3.7bn, from £4.3bn the year before. Ms Hendy said: “It is important that sellers and creditors are sensible over the prices they are expecting from M&A deals in the current climate.”

Meanwhile, RPC said there is still interest in buying distressed retailers’ assets but buyers are looking for substantial discounts, and the number of retailers entering insolvency has risen by 7 per cent in the last year.

UK M&A deals announced in 2017-18 include:

  • The Co-op’s approach for Nisa, valued at £143m

  • Tesco Opticians’ acquisition by Vision Express owner Grandvision

  • Multiyork Furniture’s acquisition by DFS

Read More – www.independent.co.uk

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Trucking Startup Convoy Is Raising Up To $198M

Convoy has authorized the sale of up to $198 million in new shares, PitchBook has learned.

On Friday, Convoy confirmed it has raised $185 million in a round led by CapitalG, the growth equity arm of Google parent Alphabet. David Lawee of CapitalG is joining the company’s board of directors.

With the funding, the company is valued at nearly $1.1 billion. For the Seattle-based startup, that’s a big jump from the $362.5 million valuation it reached in July 2017 with a $62.5 million funding round. In 2015, the year Convoy was founded, the company brought in $18.5 million at a valuation of $58.5 million.

Offering a platform with on-demand fleet management tools for trucking companies, Convoy’s technology matches trucks with businesses that need to ship freight. According to the company’s website, 40% of trucks that travel across the country are empty. Convoy’s goal is to fill up those vehicles with goods from businesses that use its app.

Existing investors in Convoy include Y Combinator, Bezos Expeditions, Greylock Partners and Mosaic Ventures. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Dropbox founder Drew Houston and U2’s Bono and The Edge have also backed the company, among others.

 

Read More – www.pitchbooks.com

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$3.9B Move In The Public Markets

At the start of this month, KKR officially converted from a partnership to a corporation. It was the culmination of a gradual, decades-long shift that’s seen the firm become more and more interested in the public markets, in contrast to its traditionally private-markets-focused PE peers.

KKR’s penchant for exiting investments via IPO is one indication of this philosophy. And its half-decade as a backer of Gardner Denver—a period that began five years ago today, on July 30, 2013—is a prime example.

In this particular saga, the firm’s connection with the stock market began with a search for targets. Gardner Denver, an industrial manufacturer focused on flow-control products for an array of industries, had been publicly traded on the NYSE for 70 years when KKR purchased all its outstanding shares in a take-private buyout valued at $3.9 billion, including the assumption of debt. KKR brought in new management as part of the deal, hiring industry veteran Timothy Sullivan as CEO and president, and appointing Michael Larsen as CFO.

The next four years brought conflicting financial signals for Gardner Denver, with a decline in energy prices wreaking havoc across the industry. The company managed to grow its EBITDA margins steadily under KKR ownership, but revenue declined by some 27% between 2014 and 2016. And something had soon become clear: The debt that KKR had piled onto the company’s existing load in order to execute its buyout was proving problematic. A return to the public markets beckoned.

The company still listed nearly $2.8 billion in total obligations as of March 31, 2017, per an SEC filing. Among a list of other risks, Gardner Denver claimed that it “may not be able to generate sufficient cash to service our indebtedness.”

That may have played a role in the lukewarm response to the company’s roadshow. After initially seeking a price of between $23 and $26 per share for its offering of 41.3 million shares, Gardner Denver ultimately priced its listing at $20 per share for its May 2017 IPO, raising $826 million at an estimated $3.8 billion valuation. The difference between an original midpoint estimate of $24.50 per share and the ultimate $20 per share pricing amounted to some $186 million—a healthy discount from what the company’s investors had hoped for.

In reality, we should maybe use the singular “investor”: KKR owned a 98.6% pre-IPO stake in Gardner Denver and retained a 75% holding upon the offering’s completion.

The company’s stock price hovered in the low $20s for the next several months. By last autumn, however, it began to tick up—first past $25 per share, then past $30. For KKR, that meant it was time to pull out some profits.

Last November 13, the firm announced plans to offer 22 million shares of Gardner Denver; the company closed trading that day with a market cap of about $5.8 billion. KKR announced a secondary offering of another 26.6 million shares for $31 apiece in May, a sale that was set to generate some $823 million in cash. Combined, those nearly 49 million shares that KKR sold in a six-month span represent about a quarter of Gardner Denver’s outstanding stock.

In terms of the traditional buyout cycle of acquisition to exit, KKR’s deal with Gardner Denver may not have generated the sky-high profits to which the PE industry is accustomed. But by holding onto post-IPO shares and playing the stock market, the firm showed the benefits of its emphasis on both the public and private sides of the economy.

This day in buyout history: Full article