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LBO France unloads Worldwide Flight Services

The Paris-based firm is selling WFS to Platinum Equity after nine years of ownership

French buyout house LBO France has agreed to sell Worldwide Flight Services to Los Angeles-headquartered Platinum Equity, according to a joint statement from the firms.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed, but market sources indicate that the deal values WFS at between €300 million and €350 million.

LBO France acquired WFS, the world’s largest cargo handler and a provider of ground handling and technical services, in 2006 from French construction group Vinci in a deal valuing the business at €315 million, PEI reported at the time. The firm made the investment using its mid-cap White Knight VII fund, a €644 million 2006-vintage.

LBO France declined to comment on the return generated by the sale.

Today, WFS is present at more than 140 airports in more than 22 countries, serving 300 airlines globally and handling four million tons of cargo and 50 million airline passengers each year. The company, which began as a family business, now employs 12,000 staff across the world, the statement said.

During LBO France’s nine-year holding period WFS has “pursued its development in fast-growing geographies” including the Middle-East, Asia and Africa, and has developed its “complementary businesses” such as VIP services and management of cruise terminals. Recently WFS made a strategic move into Brazil, acquiring a controlling stake in Orbital Group, a Brazilian provider of ramp, passenger and airport security services.

Platinum Equity is currently investing from its Platinum Equity Capital Partners III vehicle, a $3.75 billion buyout fund focused on “acquiring businesses that need operational support to realise their full potential and can benefit from Platinum’s extensive in-house capabilities and expertise in transition, integration and operations,” according to the firm.

Platinum Equity typically invests in North America and Europe, focusing on turnaround and special situations opportunities. It has substantial experience in transportation, logistics and distribution services.

Platinum is currently working with WFS and its leadership team to develop initiatives to support the company’s long-term growth strategy, the statement said.

Last week LBO France completed a seven year €230 million refinancing for portfolio company Materne-Mont Blanc. The €230 million tranche B senior financing included an additional €10 million revolving credit facility and a €40 million capex line, returning around 60 percent of the original invested capital to LBO France, PEI reported earlier.

Also last week the firm agreed to sell White Knight VIII portfolio company Alvest to French private equity firm Sagard in a deal understood to value the producer and distributor of airport ground support equipments at between €250 million and €300 million.