Charterhouse to buy Autobar for €800m

The UK-based buyout firm has beaten off competition from BC Partners to purchase Autobar, a UK-based packaging and vending machine company, from the Kuwaiti Investment Authority for more than €800m.

Charterhouse Capital Partners, the London-based private equity firm, has agreed to buy Autobar, the UK-based catering products company for more than €800 million ($960 million), according to a report in the Financial Times.

The sale of Autobar, a packaging and vending machine company controlled by the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), is subject to regulatory approval. The company had sales of €1.18 billion in the 12 months up to March 30, 2003.

The transaction represents Charterhouse’s first acquisition since August 2002, when the firm bought UK betting chain Coral Eurobet from Morgan Grenfell Private Equity for £860 million (€1.3 billion; $1.53 billion). Coral was refinanced earlier this year by Lehman Brothers and HBOS, returning £160 million to Charterhouse.

Charterhouse reportedly beat off competition from European private equity group BC Partners to secure the deal in an auction process led by Deutsche Bank. A phone call to the firm today was not returned.

Following its spinout from HSBC in 2001, Charterhouse closed its latest fund, Charterhouse Capital Partners VII, on €2.7 billion in July 2003.

Autobar, which employs more than 7,000 people and runs businesses including coffee supplier Pelican Rouge and Veriplast, the disposable-packaging company, had experienced difficult trading conditions across Europe which had reduced profitability, according to Mike Davey, chief executive.

Kuwait's government has recently been in asset-disposal mode in Europe. Last year Kuwait Petroleum sold its stake in German chemicals company, Celanese. Kuwait Petroleum is also the largest shareholder in French drugmaker Aventis, which is due to be taken over by fellow French pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Synthelabo.