ECI preps fundraise as Encore deal looms

The firm is expected to come to market next year targeting £400m for its tenth fund.

ECI Partners is in talks with ISIS Equity Partners to acquire West End ticket seller Encore Tickets Group, as it prepares to hit the road with its tenth buyout fund.

The fund will have a £400 million target (€479 million, $657 million), according to a source familiar with the matter. This is the same target as the firm’s current ECI 9 fund, which raised £437 million in 2008. The vehicle is understood to have a similar strategy as ECI 9 and will be targeting growth companies valued between £10 million and £150 million.

ECI declined to comment on fundraising plans. ISIS did not respond to a request for comment at press time.

Encore, founded in 2000, sells and distributes theatre tickets and other attraction tickets through a combination of its own website, online affiliates, retail shops and coach and tour operators. ISIS invested £9.5 million in Encore in 2010 in a deal worth more than £20 million, according to the firm’s website. In June 2011, it combined Encore with West End Theatre Bookings, a business it bought from Holidaybreak. The combined business has a workforce of 120 staff and sells over 2.5 million theatre tickets annually.

It is understood ECI will pay £60 million for Encore, with the deal expected to close this week. ECI will use ECI 9 for the transaction; this fund is now about 70 percent deployed across 11 investments.

ECI has had a busy year. In November it bought lighting business Harvard Engineering while in April, it acquired rail tour company Amber Travel. In January it took a majority stake in Citation, an employment law consultancy firm, for £50 million.

The firm has also made several divestments, including 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 in July. Earlier this year, ECI also floated Bargain Booze, which generated a 4.5x return.