Holiday season round-up: North American Deals

The North American market was the setting for a late surge in deal activity, with a number of firms agreeing buyouts as the year drew to a close.

Olympus Partners took control of 1,153 Pizza Hut restaurants through its acquisition of franchisee company NPC International. The deal provides Olympus control of roughly 19 percent of all Pizza Hut units in the US. Financial details were not disclosed. Olympus has a long history of investing in restaurant franchisees, including previous investments in Taco Bell, KFC, Wendy’s, and Chili’s. The deal represents Olympus’ eighth investment from its $1.5 billion fifth fund closed in 2007.

Catterton Partners sold restaurant chain First Watch to peer private equity firm Freeman Spogli just before Christmas. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Since partnering with First Watch in 2004, Catterton has doubled the chain’s total number of restaurants by expanding into new markets throughout the US Midwest and Southeast, according to a statement from Catterton.

Milwaukee-based private equity firm Mason Wells acquired Mullinix Packages, a maker of food packaging products, for an undisclosed sum before year-end. The firm bought out the company from the family of George Lueken, who founded Mullinix more than 40 years ago.

Mid-market player Genstar Capital acquired auto insurer Aftermarket Systems for an undisclosed sum. The firm usually writes an equity cheque of between $50 million to $400 million per transaction, according to its website. The deal was agreed “in partnership with several senior AS executives”, according to a statement.

Canadian telecoms company Research in Motion saw its share price jump almost 10 percent in pre-Christmas trading after further speculation that it could be the target of a takeover bid. Amazon, Microsoft and Nokia have all been linked with the company, which could also attract interest from private equity according to reports.  RIM lost more than 75 percent of its market value in 2011, as results were hit by a high-profile network outage and weak sales of its much-vaunted Play Book tablet. This led some analysts to suggest that it may now be under-valued – although it still has a market capitalisation of $7.6 billion, limiting the universe of potential buyers.

Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo bought Telestream, a US company that specialises in online video software, just before Christmas. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the deal will cash out Telestream's original investors and give the 13-year-old company the firepower to make further acquisitions in the digital media sector. The transaction is expected to close in early January 2012.

Gryphon Investors, a US-based mid-market private equity firm, bought a majority stake in K&N Engineering, a US company that makes air and oil filtration products for the automobile industry. Founded in 1964, K&N now sells over 2 million filters each year across more than 30 countries, with operations in the UK and the Netherlands as well as its original US base. Terms were not disclosed, but the firm said management – including Jerry Mall, one of the company's original founders of K&N – would retain a sizeable stake.