Private equity investors drop Bundesdruckerei

Apax Partners, Allianz Capital Partners and JP Morgan Chase have written off their investment in Bundesdruckerei GmbH, the German banknote printer they acquired in 2000 in a E1bn privatisation.

Apax Partners, one of Europe’s leading private equity fund managers, has transferred its interests in Authentos, the Berlin-based holding company that controls Bundesdruckerei, to JFVVG Neununddreissigste Vermögensverwaltung in Berlin and Dinos Vermögensverwaltung in Munich. The two asset managers now own 94 and six per cent of the group respectively.

Apax, alongside a group of investors including Allianz Capital Partners, JP Morgan Chase and a number of co-investing limited partners in Apax funds, acquired the state-owned Bundesdruckerei in November 2000 in a E1bn privatisation. At the time, Bundesdruckerei was considered a hugely attractive investment opportunity, with close to 80 bidders participating in a highly competitive auction. Apax became the largest investor in the group, its funds holding more than 50 per cent of the shares.

Authentos, which also comprises Security Printing and Systems, a UK-based high security printer producing passports and driving licences, ran into financial difficulty when Orga, its chipcard maker, was hit by adverse market conditions in the telecommunications industry earlier this year. Earlier this month it took a bailout agreement struck with Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen and the German government to avoid insolvency.  

British weekly The Sunday Times said Apax had written off over £120m from the Bundesdruckerei investment. Last Sunday the newspaper quoted an unnamed Apax spokesman as saying the investment accounted for “less than three per cent of our funds”.

Today a spokesperson for Apax declined to comment. 

For Allianz Capital Partners, Bundesdruckerei is the second minority investment to have failed in 2002. Earlier this year the group was stung when Fairchild Dornier, the German defence and aviation group then controlled by US private equity house Clayton Dubilier & Rice, went into receivership.