Candover buys sports company for €465m

Nordic private equity firm EQT has sold Swedish sports utility transportation company Thule AB to Candover.

European private equity firm Candover has agreed to acquire Thule AB from Stockholm-headquartered EQT for a consideration of approximately €465 million ($595 million).

EQT acquired Thule in 1999 for SEK1.9 billion (€210 million; $268 million) and added on Maine USA-based snowmobile trailer company C&C Distributors in January this year. The transaction represents just over two times return on its original investment from the EQT II Fund.

Headquartered in Malmö, Sweden, Thule manufactures rooftop boxes and roof rails, bike carriers, trailers and snow chains. The company employs 2,000 people worldwide and generated sales in 2003 of SEK2.2 billion (€242 million; $310 million).

The deal is conditional upon the approval of European and US antitrust authorities. Upon completion of the transaction, Candover is expected to hold an 80 percent stake in the company, with the remaining 20 percent held by management.

Candover were advised by Deutsche Bank and debt financing for the transaction will be provided by Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS. The deal was led for EQT by partner Caspar Callerström.

Commenting on the transaction, Candover director John Arney, who has responsibility for the Nordic region said: “Thule holds market-leading positions and has considerable opportunities for expansion: both crucial factors in the investment strategy of the Candover 2001 Fund.”

The €2.7 billion Candover 2001 Fund is around 60 percent invested and the Thule acquisition is the 11th investment from the fund, which has also taken stakes in the €3.1 billion buyout of German cable TV company Kabel Deutschland, the €1.65 billion acquisition of publisher BertelsmannSpringer and the €1.9 billion buyout of UK retail gaming company Gala.

In the last 12 months, Candover has realised one full investment from its 1994 Fund (Baxi), six full exits from the 1997 Fund (including the €1.3 billion sale of Picard Surgeles to BC Partners announced yesterday) and three partial exits from the current 2001 fund.

EQT recently closed its most recent EQT IV fund, which it launched in January 2004, above target on €2.5 billion ($3 billion).