ECI books 6x on £300m CarTrawler

BC Partners fought off competition from Charterhouse to buy the Irish car rental group.

ECI Partners has agreed to sell Irish online car rental business CarTrawler to BC Partners, netting the firm a 6x return, according to a statement.

Financial details of the transaction were undisclosed, but according to a source close to the matter, BC will pay approximately £300 million for the business.

Insight Venture Partners is co-investing in the deal and will hold a minority stake, while the management team will retain a significant stake.

ECI considered floating the business, but decided to run a competitive process instead, according to a source familiar with the matter. It is understood BC fought off competition from Charterhouse Capital Partners to win the auction.

Both ECI and BC declined to comment beyond the statement.

Dublin-based CarTrawler, which was created in 2004, provides online car rental solutions to travel partners in 174 countries. CarTrawler’s revenues and profits have more than trebled since ECI acquired the business in May 2011.

It has helped the company to attract additional management talent, accelerate growth and expand its international footprint. Last June, CarTrawler acquired the brand and online assets of Holiday Autos, which was also a former ECI investment.

CarTrawler is the first exit from ECI 9, a £437 million vehicle which was raised in 2008. This fund was approximately 70 percent deployed following the acquisition of West End ticket seller Encore Tickets Group last December.

Other divestments ECI has recently made include Ascribe, an IT company operating in the healthcare space, which netted a 2.1x return. It also booked a 2.5x return on CliniSys, another healthcare IT company, which it sold to Montagu Equity Partners for £100 million last July. It also floated Bargain Booze last year, which generated a 4.5x return.

ECI will be keen to return money to investors as it is preparing to come to market to raise £400 million for its successor fund, ECI 10. The vehicle is understood to have a similar strategy as ECI 9 and will target growth companies valued between £10 million and £150 million.

BC Partners made the investment using its ninth fund, a €6.7 billion vehicle which closed in February 2012. Other investments in this fund include The Mergermarket Group, which BC bought from Pearson for £382 million (€458 million, $623 million) last November, Springer Science, which it acquired for €3.3 billion from EQT Partners last June and animal tag business Allflex, which it bought from Electra Partners in May in a deal that valued the business at $1.3 billion.