Holiday season round-up: Europe, MENA and Asia Deals

Private equity firms across the world clamoured to round off the year on a high, leading to a slew of new investments and exits.

The biggest deal of the Christmas period was undoubtedly the €1.6 billion acquisition of mobile phone company Orange Switzerland by Apax Partners. Apax bought the company from France Telecom Orange. The deal is still pending board and regulatory approval, however. The company’s 2010 revenues were €1.1bn, Apax said.

Sun European Partners, the European arm of US group Sun Capital Partners, also squeezed in a deal before year end. It acquired Elix Polymers, a Spanish plastics company, from German business Styrolution Group for an undisclosed sum. The company forecast revenues of €200 million for 2011.

Italy played host to another European buyout in late December. Stirling Square Capital Partners acquired a majority interest in Italian oil recycling company Viscolube from Giorgio Carriero, president of the company, for an undisclosed sum. The deal was the first by Stirling Square’s new Special Opportunities team led by Manilo Marocco.

Middle Eastern buyout firm Abraaj Capital rounded off 2011 with a disposal that also yielded a new investment. The firm realised its 50 percent stake in healthcare company Acibadem, selling its holding to Integrated Healthcare Holdings and Khazanah Nasional. As part of the deal, Abraaj became a shareholder in IHH, which is one of the largest emerging market healthcare providers. IHH is part-owned by MBK Healthcare Partners, a subsidiary of Mitsui & Co. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but Abraaj founder and chief executive Arif Naqvi described it as “One of the largest to come out of emerging markets”, adding that it demonstrated that “quality assets in growth markets can outperform and generate significant returns”.

Another Middle Eastern deal saw The National Investor’s Growth Capital Fund I sell its holding in NASDAQ Dubai and London Stock Exchange-listed interior contractor DEPA. The exit delivered a 2.8 times return multiple and an internal rate of return of 61 percent.

Emerging markets specialist Actis had a busy end to the year, realising one investment and making another. It agreed to sell its controlling stake in Gujarat-based hospital chain Sterling Hospitals, according to press reports. The 80 percent stake held by the firm has been valued at 430 crore (£52 million; €62 million; $81 million). Buyout firm India Value Fund Advisors is reportedly the front running bidder.

Elsewhere in India, Actis bought into Indian auto component manufacturer Endurance in a deal worth $71 million, according to the firm. Media reports stated that the firm has taken a 10 to 13 percent stake in the business.

Global private equity firms The Carlyle Group and The Blackstone Group were reportedly in separate negotiations to buy stakes in Reliance Infratel, the tower unit of Reliance Communications, one of the largest telecoms operators in India. Media reports indicated a successful sale of the towers business could help Reliance Communications significantly delever its balance sheet.

In Australia, paper merchant PaperlinX reportedly spent Christmas considering a bid made by an undisclosed private equity firm. The offer was said to stand at 9 cents per share and $21.85 for preference shares, valuing the business at $500 million.

Chinese interest in African companies was underlined in mid-December when sovereign wealth fund Chinese Investment Corporation acquired a 25 percent stake in South African investment holding company Shanduka for $245 million, according to press reports. CIC bought the stake from Old Mutual Private Equity and Investec.