Deal Mechanic: Nordic Capital / Permobil

When Swedish wheelchair business Permobil was set up in 1967, the founder, a medical doctor, wanted to provide helpful products for disabled people using the latest technology. His vision, as Permobil chief financial officer Carl Bandhold puts it, was to improve the life of “some of the most unlucky people in our society”. As a result, Permobil has always had a culture that is focused on making sure the patient gets what they need.  

So when Nordic Capital acquired a 75 percent stake in 2006 (the founding families retained the remaining 25 percent), it quickly realised it had to be mindful of that. “The users of these wheelchairs are very disabled people, so it’s important that the users are always in the centre,” says Fredrik Näslund, a Nordic partner. “We have been managing the culture very closely – it was very important for Permobil to keep the family spirit and the very user-focused ideas. For example, wherever you go within Permobil [e.g. when travelling to other manufacturing sites], you hug each other – because that was a habit that the founder had.”

However, Nordic felt the addition of some extra financial resources and knowledge would enable the management team to transform Permobil “from a diamond in the rough into a real jewel”. 

By the time Nordic sold Permobil to fellow Swedish firm Investor for SEK5.5 billion (€661 million, $849 million) in April, reportedly making a 5x return, sales had almost doubled to approximately SEK 1.6 billion (€190 million, $250 million). Staff numbers also increased.