Apax buys back into Frans Bonhomme

The UK private equity firm has acquired French industrial group Frans Bonhomme from PAI, Cinven and Astorg Partners in a E520m buyout.

The flurry of sponsor-to-sponsor transactions in the European buyout market shows no sign of abating. Apax Partners announced today an agreement with a group of European private equity firms over the acquisition of Frans Bonhomme, a distributor of plastic pipes and fittings for the civil works and construction industry.

Apax is acquiring the business from fellow private equity groups PAI, Cinven and Astorg Partners. The price for the business is E520m, which will be financed by a combination of equity and senior mezzanine debt provided by Goldman Sachs and Natexis Banques Populaires.


The latest deal represents Apax’s second stint as owner of the business, having originally acquired a minority stake alongside French buyout group Fonds Partenaires in 1994. Apax made six times its money from the sale of that stake, bought for about E9m. In 2000, the business was sold for E416m to Cinven, PAI and Astorg, which took equity stakes of 31.4, 31.4 and 16.8 per cent respectively. Management retained the balance.


In the three years following that transaction, Frans Bonhomme’s turnover increased by 25 per cent to nearly E440m in the year ended 31 December 2002. During the period, the company opened 60 new outlets and expanded its product range. The business, which was set up in 1935, employs over 1,700 people.


“We are extremely happy to acquire a company we invested in in 1994 and that we know very well. We trust the management team as well as the proven business model,” said Patrick de Giovanni, a partner at Apax. “We intend to pursue the company’s historic model of organic growth, by extending the national territory coverage and to undertake a pro-active international development policy.”


It is the second transaction Apax has completed in France this week, following the acquisition of a chain of French optical retailers from Carrefour. Apax teamed up with retailer Alain Afflelou, in which it holds a 24 per cent, to acquire the 138-store chain. Under the deal, Apax agreed to run the Spanish operations, Carrefour Optica, which comprises 69 stores.