ECI snaps up pet food retailer stake

The UK mid-market firm’s acquisition of a majority stake in UK pet food company MPM is the third from ECI 10.

UK mid-market firm ECI Partners has made its third investment from its tenth flagship vehicle, picking up a majority stake in upmarket pet food retailer MPM.

The firm will help with the international expansion of the company that is expected to generate £50 million ($72 million; €64 million) in global sales this year. The company already sells its products in 33 countries, and is “growing strongly” in the US, ECI said in a statement. Its Applaws and Encore brands are aimed at the premium natural pet food market.

MPM’s founders Roger Coleman, Roger Wood and Jon Kingsley will remain as minority shareholders in the company.

The company is the latest pet products retailer to receive private equity capital. It follows the acquisition in November last year of US chain Petco Holdings by CVC Capital Partners and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for $4.6 billion, making it one of the largest leveraged buyouts of the year, as reported by Private Equity International. The company was acquired from TPG and Leonard Green.

Last month, US retailer PetSmart distributed $800 million to its equity holders, which include BC Partners. The buyout firm acquired the company in December 2014 alongside 30 LP co-investors, including CDPQ and StepStone, in an $8.7 billion take-private transaction, as reported by PEI.

ECI is currently investing from ECI 10, a 2013-vintage vehicle that closed in September 2014 on £500 million, above its £400 million target. Other portfolio companies in the fund include Tusker, an employee benefits car provider, and Evans Cycles, a UK cycling retailer. Both were acquired last year and are valued at £50-100 million, according to ECI’s website.

The firm invests in growth companies with a value of £20-150 million, including management buyouts, buy-ins and acquisition capital, taking both minority and majority stakes. It targets companies in the business services, consumer, healthcare, TMT and industrials sectors.