EQT buys German optics company

The E166m purchase of Leybold Optics is the first German acquisition for EQT Northern Europe.

EQT Northern Europe, the investment manager of the EQT Northern Europe private equity fund, has bought Leybold Optics from Zurich-based Unaxis Group for E166m, marking the private equity firm’s first takeover in Germany.

Leybold Optics develops vacuum coating equipment for optical components, which are used by manufacturers of medical technology, and telecommunications and automotive parts. The company employs nearly 400 people in 10 countries and is expected to generate revenues of around E150m for 2001, having already secured SFr181m in sales for the first nine months of this year.

According to Udo Philipp, a partner at EQT Partners, the 21st century will be the century of optoelectronics. To that end Leybold Optics, with its leading market positions, global networks and well-recognised brand, fits well into EQT's strategy of acquiring high-quality companies with strong growth prospects, he said.

While in the long term EQT will look to expand Leybold both organically and through acquisitions, “growth for 2002 will be scaled back as the company invests more in research and development in readiness for the next upswing in the telecoms or optoelectronics markets,” he added.

The EQT Group uses a network of corporate executives with experience of running international operations to expand and develop portfolio companies, said Philipp. The board charged with expanding Leybold includes Hagen Hultzsch, a member of the executive board at Deutsche Telecom, and Peter Grassmann, former CEO of precision optics company Carl Zeiss. The management team and this advisory board will hold around seven per cent of Leybold. “These people are a strategic resource that open doors and unlock potential,” he said.

EQT is controlled by Investor, the holding company owned by Sweden’s Wallenberg family. The Wallenbergs have a 44 per cent stake in Investor, which in turn has interests in a number of Swedish telecom companies including Ericsson.

The EQT group of funds manages around E3bn and has investments in 26 companies. EQT Scandinavia I and EQT Scandinavia II, launched in 1995 and 1998, are fully invested. EQT Northern Europe is expected to close at around E2bn in March 2001. The group also has two regional funds that invest solely in Denmark and Finland.

Since the group was formed in 1994, it has completed six exits. EQT plans to exit Leybold within three to five years.