First deal for fundraising Royal London

Royal London Private Equity has backed the £26m buyout of UK property services company Emprise, following a second close of its first-time mid market fund on £71m.

Royal London Private Equity (RLPE), the UK mid-market buyout firm, has made its first investment since commencing fundraising last year, backing environmental and property services company Emprise in a £26m transaction.

RLPE has contributed £7.7m of equity to the deal, backing a management team led by founder and executive chairman of Emprise, Stephen Barrett, and chief executive Howard Sharp, both of whom have invested in the deal. Debt for the transaction has been provided by The Royal Bank of Scotland.

The deal provides an exit for 3i, which backed the business in 1995. Details of 3i’s return on investment have not been disclosed.

Emprise is one of the UK’s leading providers of outsourced environmental and property services to major private and public sector clients. Services include cleaning, manned guarding and security, waste management, landscaping and pest control.

“We plan to continue with the company’s previous successful strategy, building services and adding clients where we can,” said RLPE director Richard Caston, who joined the firm last year from Royal Bank Private Equity. “The company has an excellent track record and represents a close fit with RLPE’s stated investment criteria.”

RLPE’s investment strategy is to target companies valued between £25m and £75m in the support services, financial services, leisure, and information technology services sectors.

The firm confirmed that a £71m second close of its debut fund was held earlier this month, following the first close on £64m in April. Investors in the fund include Royal London Mutual Insurance Society (RLMIS), clients of Morley Fund Managers along with other institutional and private individual investors. The fund received a £50m cornerstone investment from The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society.

RLPE is currently working with placement agent Benedetto, Gartland and Company and is hoping to close the fund on £200m by April 2004. Caston said the firm was aiming to complete a second transaction prior to the final close.