AXA acquires French cleaning business

French private equity firm Natexis Industrie and the French team of Barclays Private Equity have sold their stake in Eau Ecarlate to AXA Private Equity.

Paris-based private equity firm AXA Private Equity has bought French stain remover brand Eau Ecarlate in a secondary buyout.

Natexis Industrie, a division of French private equity firm Natexis Private Equity, and Barclays Private Equity sold their majority stake in the cleaning products supplier for an undisclosed sum. A recent report in La Tribune suggested an enterprise value of €150 million ($177 million).

We want to develop Eau Ecarlate into a pan-European group in the next three to five years and at least double, if not triple, the sales of the group.

Philippe Poletti, director, AXA Private Equity

AXA Private Equity made the acquisition through its AXA LBO Fund III, a €500 million fund raised in January of this year. Barclays Leveraged Finance provided senior debt facilities and European Capital mezzanine financing to fund the transaction.

Barclays Private Equity, the mid-market buyout arm of the UK’s Barclays Bank, originally acquired a majority stake in 2001 for an undisclosed sum. According to Arnaud Thomas, investment director in Barclays Private Equity’s French office, the investment was made from the bank’s balance sheet and client money, rather than through a fund.

Thomas said that Natexis Industrie became a majority shareholder in November 2003 when Barclays completed a recapitalisation of Eau Ecarlate. He declined to comment on the price paid in any of the transactions.

Philippe Poletti, a director at AXA Private Equity, told PEO that Eau Ecarlate’s investment strategy over the next five years would be to expand the business geographically. “They have done very well in the French market and the business model they have built could apply well in other European countries,” he said. “We want to develop Eau Ecarlate into a pan-European group in the next three to five years and at least double, if not triple, the sales of the group.”

Eau Ecarlate, located in the Paris region of Sainte-Genevieve des Bois, supplies stain removers, surface cleaners, laundry aids, bleach tables and optical cleaners. According to Natexis Industrie, the company currently has sales of just over €100 million.

AXA Private Equity has offices in Paris, Frankfurt, London and New York and currently manages in excess of €7 billion in assets. According to the firm, it has closed 34 deals, most of them in France, since it raised its first LBO mid-cap fund in 1997. Sixteen of those investments have now been realised, generating an IRR of 44.8 percent and an exit multiple of 2.62x the initial investment.