Apax backs Azimut MBO

The deal marks the first time Apax has invested in an Italian financial services company.

Apax Partners, the global private equity fund manager, has backed the management buyout of Azimut, the Italian asset management unit of Italian bank Bipop-Carire, in a deal worth E371m. As part of the deal, the group will absorb E47m of the firm’s debt.

While Apax has committed to other financial services companies across Europe, this is the firm’s first investment in Italy. Its most recent deal of a related nature was a capital injection into bolero.net, a UK-based electronic trading platform.

According to the Financial Times, Azimut will be run by a company created by Apax and co-financed by other banks. The financial backers and managers take more than 20 per cent of its capital. A spokesperson for the firm said it was planning to list the business on a stock exchange.

The deal is good news for Bipop-Carire, although it received far less than the E775m to E1bn it is thought to have initially been looking to raise from the sale of Azimut. Following declining profit forecast in the course of 2001, the Italian bank was expected to end its financial year with a loss, but the sale of Azimut means it will make a profit instead.

Bipop-Carire is currently discussing a possible merger with Banca di Roma. It sought to sell Azimut as soon as it inherited the firm from Banca Akros three years ago, and last year held talks with a number of potential buyers including GE Capital, Barclays Bank and Banca Popolare di Lodi.

The deal is subject to approval from the Bank of Italy and Italy’s competition regulator. Morgan Stanley, Rothschild and Bonelli Erede Pappalardo advised Bipop.