Bridgepoint books 2.5x on Infront as fund close looms

The firm is selling the sports marketing company to a Chinese conglomerate in a deal worth €1.05bn

Bridgepoint, a pan-European focused firm, has agreed to sell international sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media to Dalian Wanda Group in a transaction valued at around €1.05 billion.

Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group is China’s largest investor in the cultural and entertainment sector, according to a joint statement from Wanda Group and Infront.

The sale generated a money multiple of 2.5x and an internal rate of return of 37 percent for Bridgepoint, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.

Bridgepoint acquired the business in December 2011 for around €580 million, it is understood, financing the buyout using capital from its €4.8 billion Bridgepoint Europe IV Fund, PEI reported previously.

Led by president and CEO Philippe Blatter, Infront is based in Zug, Switzerland, and has partnerships with 160 rights holders in 25 sports, and with hundreds of sponsors and media brands. The company as more than 25 offices in 13 countries, and a diversified portfolio in winter sports, football, summer sports and active lifestyle and endurance.

Infront is “the leading sports marketing organisation in China”, and over the past ten years has represented Chinese basketball on CBA League and National team level. Last year the company launched Happy 10k, a domestic mass participation series for amateur runners, pushing forward its strategic expansion in the Active Lifestyle segment, Infront said.

In 2014 Infront delivered 4,000 event days and generated revenues of more than €800 million, according to the statement. Blatter said under its new owners Infront will continue to grow across the board, both internationally as well as in China.

“[Infront] is best-positioned to actively support China in its bidding efforts for major sports events, as it is already involved in the planning, delivering, marketing and servicing of a broad array of top international events,” Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda Group, said in the statement. “By acquiring Infront, Wanda will also be in a position to increase its influence in the global sports industry and help [in] raising the level of competition in Chinese sports.”

The sale comes as Bridgepoint continues to raise its fifth buyout fund. Bridgepoint Europe V, which has a €3.5 billion target and came to market in May 2014, had amassed €2.8 billion by October, PEI revealed earlier.