Autogrill could be Italy’s next mega-deal

The fast-growing Italian private equity market could be delivered another boost if private equity firms follow through on their reported interest in restaurant group Autogrill.

Autogrill, which operates restaurants at motorway service stations, airports and railway stations, could be Italy’s next mega-buyout according to reports. 

A report from Dow Jones says BC Partners, KKR and Texas Pacific Group are interested in acquiring the company for around €13 per share, valuing the business at about €3.3 billion.

The Benetton family, which owns clothing giant Benetton Group, holds a 57 percent stake in Autogrill. There have been reports in the Italian press for some time that the family has been considering a sale, which the family has denied.

Autogrill is a world leader in food and beverage services and retailing of consumer products and travel merchandise on motorways, airports and railway stations.  In 2002, it reported turnover of around €3.3 billion. Autogrill has approximately 40,000 employees and operates in 14 countries through more than 4,300 outlets in 900 locations.

The Italian buyout market is demonstrating remarkable growth. It accounted for Europe’s largest-ever buyout in 2003 when yellow pages business Seat Pagine Gialle was acquired by BC Partners, CVC Capital Partners, Investitori Associati and Permira for €5.65 billion. The country also witnessed other large buyouts last year, including the €1.6 billion acquisition of aerospace firm Fiat Avio by Carlyle Group.

As a result of such deals, interest in the Italian market is growing. Domestic funds such as BS Private Equity and Investitori Associati have enjoyed success raising funds, while newcomer Clessidra Capital is confident of raising €1 billion in the first half of 2004. And, as recent deals demonstrate, international investors are increasingly confident about the market’s prospects.