Barclays cleans up with 5.7x soap sale

The sale of soap maker Deb Group to Charterhouse for £325m is the latest in a string of European mid-market secondary buyouts.

Barclays Private Equity has generated a 5.7 times money multiple on the sale of Deb Group, manufacturer of Swarfega, to Charterhouse Capital Partners for £325 million (€359 million; $489 million).

Swarfega: dispensing

Charterhouse won out over bids from both industry and private equity suitors, including Morgan Stanley Private Equity, sources close to the deal confirmed. BPE originally mandated UBS to explore sale options for the company in 2008, but turmoil in the financial markets meant the sale process was delayed, the source said.

Derbyshire-based Deb Group, which was founded in the 1940s, originally produced Swarfega, a green jelly-like substance marketed as a cleaning agent to be used on silk stockings. Nowadays the company produces a number of hand soaps, as used in wall-mounted dispensers in public conveniences.

BPE originally invested £32 million of equity in a$135 million MBO of the business in 2004. BPE subsequently refinanced Deb in 2006 and increased its stake to 75 percent.

The Deb sale is the latest in a string of European mid-market secondary buyouts to take place in the opening months of 2010. Bridgepoint, LGV Capital and AXA Private Equity have all sold portfolio companies to private equity buyers since the year’s start.