French casinos pass to Bridgepoint

The European private equity firm has acquired France’s third largest casino operator from Legal & General Ventures and Royal Bank Equity Finance.

European buyout firm Bridgepoint has acquired French casino operator Moliflor Loisirs from Legal & General Ventures (LGV) and Royal Bank Equity Finance (RBPE) for an undisclosed sum.

Lazard advised the vendors on the transaction, for which Bank of Ireland provided debt.

Johnson: right time to sell

LGV and RBPE, the private equity arm of the Royal Bank of Scotland, acquired the French casino company from private equity firm PPM Ventures for over €400 million ($467.5 million) in March 2003. PPM Ventures had acquired Moliflor Loisirs in a take private in 1999 for an undisclosed sum.

Adrian Johnson, chief executive of LGV, did not disclose the price but said that it had been a “very satisfactory result” for LGV: “I think it was an appropriate time to be selling an asset into a market place where there is significant private equity demand.”

Recent press reports had cited a figure of €450 million in enterprise value for the business.

Johnson added that LGV is currently raising money for its fifth fund, LGV5, which has a target cap of £200 million and is expected to hold a final close in early December. “Our last fund, LGV4, has now finished investing and was the first time we got more third party money than LGV money,” he said. “With Fund 5, we’re expecting a record amount of third party money,”

Founded in 1948, Lyon-based Moliflor Loisirs employs over 1400 people and has over 1700 slot machines in 20 casinos located principally in medium-sized towns throughout France. Bridgepoint said in a press release that the company is France’s third largest casino operator and is forecast to generate €260 million in gross gaming revenue and turnover of ancillary activities in 2005.

According to Bridgepoint, the French casino sector is estimated to be worth €2.5 billion in annual gross gaming revenues.

In a separate announcement, Bridgepoint has also acquired A-Katsastus, a Finland-based vehicle inspection company for an undisclosed sum. The vendors were MB Funds, Tapiola, Finnish Industry Investment and Varma Mutual Pension Fund. The business was state-owned until 2003 when it was acquired by its financial investors and management.

In the year to 31 December 2004, A-Katsastus had sales of €81.3 million and currently employs over 1400 people.