Close Brothers exits two portfolio companies

Close Brothers Private Equity, a UK mid-market firm, has sold United Transport International, a freight logistics business, and its stake in V.Ships, a shipping company.

UK mid-market firm Exponent has bought shipping company V.Ships from Close Brothers Private Equity, in a deal thought to be worth about £180 million (€265 million, $352 million).


Close Brothers, which is keeping a minority stake in the business, is thought to have made a return of about four times its original investment.


Close Brothers backed the £30 million management buyout of V.Ships in March 2003. The business operates an international network of 68 offices in more than 40 countries and has about a 20 percent share of the global outsourced ship management sector.


This is Exponent’s sixth deal from its £400 million debut fund. After a rapid fundraising process, the firm took 13 months to make its first investment, but then sealed four more deals within nine months – most recently travel booking site Trainline, which it bought for £163 million last June.


London-listed logistics company Interbulk Investments has acquired another of the firm’s portfolio companies, United Transport International, for £80 million.


Close Brothers established United Transport International in 2000 through a merger of Rentokil’s freight logistics operations and Yardbrace Group, another portfolio company. It sold a part of United Transport International, the Rotterdam-listed liquids business, to 3i in 2002.


Founded in 1984, Close Brothers Private Equity has €1 billion under management, and typically invests between £20 million and £100 million in each deal.