PE-backed Coral outstrips competition

A survey of the UK’s 100 largest unquoted companies has found that just under half are controlled by private equity firms as take privates hit record highs.

 A report in the Sunday Times newspaper has revealed that private equity firms own 43 of the UK’s 100 biggest private companies.

The Sunday Times’ Top Track 100 survey – which ranks companies solely on volume of sales – showed that the largest unquoted company in the UK is also in private equity hands.

Betting and gaming operator Coral Eurobet was acquired by Charterhouse Capital Partners from Morgan Grenfell Private Equity in August 2002 for £860 million (€1.3 billion; $1.6 billion).

Coral’s sales have jumped £2 billion in the last year, reaching £5.4 billion in 2004. Charterhouse, which owns 75 percent of the company is reported to have already recouped more than its original £278 million equity investment through a recapitalisation in 2004.

Other private equity-backed companies at the head of the list include cash and carry operator Booker (West Coast Capital, BoS); department store chain Debenhams (CVC, Texas Pacific, Merrill Lynch PE); food manufacturer RHM (Doughty Hanson); pub operator Spirit Group (CVC, Texas Pacific, Blackstone, Merrill Lynch PE) and food distributor Brakes (Clayton Dubilier & Rice).

In separate news, a report from the Centre for Management Buyout Research (CMBOR) has shown that the value of take-privates in the UK reached £4.9 billion in the first six months of the year, higher than in any calendar year since 2000.

Agreements for delistings in the first half of 2005 included Apax Partners’ £489 million bid for children’s TV company Hit Entertainment and the acquisition of Manchester United Football Club by Malcolm Glazer.