Argos Soditic hits high note with music maker

The European buyout firm has sold its stake in Jaybeam Wireless, a manufacturer of cellular antennas in the same week it made a €3.5m capital contribution to Buffet Crampon, a manufacturer of musical instruments.

European buyout firm Argos Soditic has invested €1 million ($1.3 million) of its own capital and €2.5 million in bank debt into Buffet Crampon, a French musical instrument manufacturer, in the same week that saw the firm exit Jaybeam Wireless, the last asset to be stripped from the Financière Harlé Bickford conglomerate it acquired in 2007. The terms of the exit were not disclosed.

The capital commitment to Buffet Crampon, of which Argos is already an 85 percent shareholder, is intended to finance the production of a new line of clarinets. It is part of an add-on strategy following the acquisition of Buffet by Argos in June 2005, and the subsequent purchase of a former Steinway factory in July last year. The new factory which was bought for a “nominal price” will form the base for the expansion of Buffet’s production line. The debt used in the transaction was provided by a bank pool led by BNP Paribas

Jaybeam Wireless, which manufactures cellular antennas for cars, has been sold to Amphenol, a US electrical manufacturer listed on the New York stock exchange. The divestment is the latest and last asset to be stripped from the family owned conglomerate, Financière Harlé Bickford, which Argos acquired two years with the intention of shedding all but the Davey Bickford pyrotechnics business. Louis Godron, a partner of Argos, told PEO that the unwanted assets have all now been sold, apart from some real estate outside of Paris.

“We are happy to make deals with just a little debt or no debt. Our approach is to focus on doing complex transactions rather than to take part in bidding wars,” Godron said in an interview.

Argos Soditic was established in 1989 and has offices in Paris, Geneva and Milan. It focuses on investing in small to medium sized companies in Europe, particularly in France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal. In 2006 it closed Argos Soditic Fund V at €275 million.