Baring makes second exit from Topway

The firm’s Central European fund has sold Ultex, the oil-seed crushing business of restructured portfolio company Topway Industries.

The Baring Central European Fund, the central European investment unit of the Baring Private Equity Partners Group, has made a second exit from Topway Industries, the buy and build business backed by Baring in 1999.

Baring has sold Ultex, one of Romania’s largest oil-seed crushing facilities, to local entrepreneur Vasile Nitescu, for an undisclosed sum.

BCEF originally invested in Topway Industries as part of a buy and build strategy in August 1999 and since then has overseen the re-organisation of the group into three separate operating business units, the modernisation of its production facilities and the launch of several new products. 

Ultex, the primary business of Topway Asset Management, is one of the oldest names in oil-seed crushing and processing in Romania, which is Central Europe’s second largest consumer market. Its crushing and refining plant, based 100 km east of Bucharest, near the Black Sea port of Constantza, supplies vegetable oil for many of the country’s best selling brands of margarine and cooking oils. Ultex employs 410 people and has a turnover of E40m.

Baring declined to reveal further details of the firm’s return on investment, although BCEF’s managing partner, Gyuri Karady, said he was pleased with the exit. “I’m pleased with what we have achieved so far, although it will not be possible to get a clear idea of how the investment has performed until we sell the remaining businesses of Topway.” The remaining part of the business, Topway’s edible oils subsidiary, is likely to be sold in 2004.

“The exit also exemplifies a new dynamic in Romania,” added Karady, “[which is] the ascendancy of a growing number of domestic private investors who have the ability, experience and resources to invest in local companies and take these forward to the next stage of their development.”

Baring is thought to be close to launching the follow-up to its debut Central European fund, which closed on E86m in 2001. However, plans for a new fund have been put on hold until the future of Baring Private Equity Partners Group is resolved. Last month, parent-company ING Group confirmed that BPEP was planning to launch a management buyout from the group.