ABRY-backed translation company files $400m IPO

Language Line Services is the latest private equity-backed company to look to the public markets for an exit this year.

Language Line Services, a company backed by ABRY Partners that provides interpretation services, has registered for a $400 million initial public offering on the NASDAQ.

Language Line's investors include New York Life Capital Partners, Merrill Lynch Capital and ABRY. ABRY, which is based in Boston, Massachusetts, paid $722 million in 2004 to acquire Language Line. The investment came from the firm's fourth fund, which closed on $775 million in 2001. ABRY will continue to control Language Line after the IPO.

The company will use proceeds from the sale to pay down debt and pay a dividend to its parent company, Language Line Holdings. Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are underwriting the IPO.

ABRY, which is investing from its sixth private equity fund that closed on $1.3 billion in 2008, looks for investments in sizes between $25 million and $150 million. The firm also has been raising a $750 million senior debt fund this year, ABRY Advanced Securities Fund, to provide senior debt to media, communications, business and information services companies.

Earlier this year, the firm's portfolio company, Muzak, collapsed into bankruptcy under a $465 million debt load. ABRY acquired Muzak in 1998.

Private equity firms have turned increasingly to the public markets as a way to exit portfolio companies. Just this month, Shengli Oil & Gas Pipe Holdings, a portfolio company of Apollo Asia and SEAVI Advent, announced its intention to raise up to HK$1.94 billion ($250 million;€168 million) through an initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The Blackstone Group-backed Graham Packaging recently filed a $350 million IPO and a Cerberus Capital Management-backed gun maker, Freedom Group, filed for a $200 million public offering in October.