AXA becomes Fives' fourth PE owner

AXA Private Equity has acquired a minority stake in production line designer and supplier Fives Group in a deal valued at more than €800 million.

Some companies evidently have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them irresistible to private equity. Fives Group, which on Friday announced its fourth successive buyout, is evidently one of them.

Paris-headquartered AXA Private Equity became the company's latest owner, having acquired a 45 percent stake in the business from Charterhouse Capital Partners, according to a source close to the process.

Sources put the value of deal in the €800 million to €900 million range. The firm declined to comment on both the size of its stake or the deal value.

The deal represents a full exit for Charterhouse Capital Partners, which acquired the company in 2006 for €450 million, according to its website. Charterhouse bought the company from Barclays Private Equity, which itself had acquired it from Industri Kapital (since re-branded as IK Investment Partners) in 2004 for €330 million.

It's been a busy month for Charterhouse: two weeks ago it purchased German safety equipment manufacturer Bartec for about €600 million, days after it sold down its stake in energy sector research group Wood Mackenzie to Hellman & Friedman in a deal valued at €1.4 billion.

Fives' management team, led by chief executive Frédéric Sanchez, has acquired a majority 55 percent stake in the business as part of the deal, AXA said.

The company designs and supplies production lines and read-to-work factories for industrial groups, and delivered turnover of €1.3 billion last year.

Sanchez said in a statement: “Our partnership with Charterhouse has allowed us to significantly accelerate our growth, despite the crisis. A long-term partnership with AXA Private Equity … will enable the group to exploit the full potential of its diversified operations. Our success has been built on our capacity to innovate and by leveraging the dynamism of markets with high growth potential.”

HSBC and Rothschild advised Fives and Charterhouse on the deal, with Ashurt providing legal advice to Charterhouse and Latham & Watkins advising Fives. Messier Maris & Associés provided M&A advice to AXA PE, with Weil Gotshal & Manges handling the legal side for the French firm. PricewaterhouseCoopers handled financial due diligence.