Permira to prepare spectacle maker for IPO

The Frankfurt-based division of European buyout investor Permira has acquired a 49 per cent minority stake of Rodenstock, the family-owned spectacle and lense maker.

A Frankfurt-based team headed by Evelyn Ehlert, a partner at Permira, has led the buyout firm’s purchase of a 49 per cent stake in The Rodenstock Group, the ophthalmic optics business that claims a 30 per cent share of the German market for frames and lenses. 

Financial terms of Permira’s investment have not been disclosed. 

The deal comes three months after Permira completed the acquisition of a 65 per cent interest in Premiere, the German pay-TV business sold by insolvent media concern Kirch Group.

Under the terms of the Rodenstock transaction, Randolf Rodenstock, CEO and majority shareholder, retains 51 per cent of the group’s shares. In a statement, the company described the deal as an “important intermediary step of the family owned group towards a going public, a step which has been thought about for quite some time.”

The group said that in 2002, despite a global decline in consumer optics, it was able to grow sales by 3 per cent, to E380m. Ehlert said in a press release that Permira was confident Rodenstock could be able to use the potential of its brand to build market share outside its home market.

Permira’s Frankfurt office did not return calls on Monday.

The group, which until last year was trading as Schroder Ventures, has been investing in Germany since 1986. The firm has completed over 50 buyout transactions in the country that many private equity practitioners habitually refer to as one of the greatest disappointments in Continental Europe’s private equity market.  

In 2001, the firm invested in Grammar, a family-owned manufacturer of automotive interior systems, and bought Together for Leather, a leather chemicals business. It also featured in the E2.5bn buyout of Cognis, the specialty chemicals group it bought off Henkel together with Goldman Sachs Capital Partners.

Permira is currently investing its second European buyout fund, capitalised at E3.5bn. It recently launched a campaign for a successor vehicle with a fundraising target of close to E5bn.