Doughty Hanson closes first French deal

Doughty Hanson, the European private equity firm, has acquired industrial battery maker Saft from Alcatel for E390m in a deal that represents its first acquisition in France.

Industrial battery maker Saft has become the first acquisition for Doughty Hanson since it established a Paris office in January 2003. 

The office is headed by managing director Yves Duchesne, who said: “Saft is a high quality business with excellent growth and earnings potential. We are pleased to have acquired the business from a blue-chip French corporate and to have agreed our first acquisition in France, which we believe is a private equity market set to grow very strongly.”

The deal is also the first investment to come from the Doughty Hanson IV fund, which announced a first closing of E705m last month. It is subject to regulatory approvals but is expected to complete by the end of this year. CSFB is underwriting debt for the transaction.

Saft makes high-end batteries for the energy, railway, aviation, telecom and defence sectors. The batteries are incorporated in nearly all aeroplanes used by Airbus and Boeing as well as in high-speed trains and the new Segway human transporter, the personal transportation device.

The firm was established in 1918 and was acquired by Alcatel in 1928. For most of its history, it was involved in the mass manufacture of non-rechargeable batteries for the consumer market, but exited this area in 1985 to focus on industrial applications. Based in Paris, it has industrial plants in France, the UK, US, Germany, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Israel.   
Doughty Hanson says it will work with Saft on a strategic growth plan to develop its industrial sites and develop new products in the areas of transport, energy and safety-critical systems, as well as pursuing acquisitions.

Last month, Doughty Hanson agreed to sell Italian automotive fluid maker FL Selenia to Vestar, the US buyout house, for E670m.