Apax takes bigger slice of Unilabs

The firm has invested capital from Apax IX, the $9 billion vehicle it is raising, to buy out Apax France and majority owner Nordic Capital.

Apax Partners has acquired a majority position in Swiss laboratory and radiology services company Unilabs after nine years as a minority investor.

Apax delisted the Geneva-based company from the Swiss Stock Exchange in 2007 in a club deal alongside Apax France, which is independent of Apax Partners, and Sweden’s Nordic Capital.

A person with knowledge of the deal told Private Equity International's sister title Private Healthcare Investor that Apax’s Europe Fund VI has retained the stake it acquired in 2007 and the firm has invested capital from Apax IX, the $9 billion vehicle it is raising, to buy out Apax France and majority owner Nordic Capital. The person said that while Apax is now the majority owner, a few minority shareholders remain.

“Under the leadership of CEO Jos Lamers and his executive team, Unilabs and its 5,300 employees have done an outstanding job in growing organic revenues at close to double market rates, and they continue to generate expanding operating margins. We are excited to continue our successful collaboration and to support the company in its future ambitions,” said Steven Dyson, a partner at Apax Partners.

The deal value was not disclosed.

Listed fund of funds manager Altamir, an exclusive investor in or alongside Apax funds, in June valued its 5.48 percent stake in Unilabs at €22.5 million.

The deal comes after a more than twelve-month process which saw Rothschild explore a variety of options for Unilabs, including a flotation. A source told PHI the sellers considered a sale to Apax “the best alternative”.

Unilabs recorded record sales of €673 million and EBITDA of €115 million for 2015. In 2007 when the consortium acquired the company, Unilabs recorded full year EBITDA of 51.6 million Swiss francs.

In a release Apax Partners said Unilabs under its ownership will “continue to pursue its successful M&A strategy and be at the forefront of the ongoing consolidation of the European laboratory space”.

In 2008 the private equity firms merged Unilabs with the diagnostic division of European healthcare provider Capio, which was a portfolio company owned by the consortium. The firms floated Capio in Stockholm last year in a listing valuing the business at SKr6.84 billion.

Unilabs has more than 5,300 employees across 10 European countries, as well as locations in the Middle East and Latin America. Prior to this deal Apax’s most recent healthcare transaction was the €500 million acquisition of a 50.1 percent stake in respiratory business Vyaire Medical.