GE Equity bets on Italian vending machines

GE’s private equity arm has invested $9m in Nuova Bianchi, an Italian vending machine maker keen to break into the US market.

GE Equity’s European arm has announced a $9m investment in Nuova Bianchi, the second largest maker of vending machines in Italy.

Nuova Bianchi is a family business founded in 1969 by the Trapletti family and currently run by Massimo Trapletti. The company runs a sales network called Union Vending across the European Union, central and eastern Europe, China and South America.

GE Equity’s investment is intended to help Nuova Bianchi into new markets, most notably the US. The company and its new partners have agreed plans to prepare for a listing on a stock exchange within the next three to four years.

Sherwood Dodge, managing director, said GE Equity had been attracted by Nuova Bianchi’s recent growth and steady profitability. A statement said the company had grown sales from L9bn (E4.7m) in 1992 to L90bn at present, and generated net profits of just under E5m in 2000.

Massimo Trapletti said he was looking forward to leveraging the relationship with GE to open up the North American market.

GE Equity is understood to have taken a 25 per cent stake in the business. GE Equity originated the deal itself and has been negotiating with the vendors for the past five months.

Fiscal and accounting due diligence was conducted by Ernst & Young. Ashurst Morris Crisp dealt with legal and shareholders agreements.

It is the first time GE Equity has invested in the vending sector. Nuova Bianchi's main competitor is NECTA, the largest manufacturer in Europe which in 2000 was acquired by Compass Partners, the US fund based in London.

The Trapletti family has been in vending machines since 1959 when it supplied US vending machines to the Italian market. In 1963 it began producing its own models. Other manufacturing interests included bcycles. In 1992, the family sold Bianchi, the largest Italian bicycle manufacturer, to Piaggio.