Rivals emerge for Range Cooker deal

Graphite Capital is likely to face opposition from trade buyers as it seeks to lead a public-to-private MBO of the oven manufacturer.

Graphite Capital Management, the UK private equity firm currently in talks with UK-listed oven manufacturer Range Cookers over a possible buyout of the firm, looks set to be challenged by trade buyer Aga Foodservices.

Graphite announced in February that it would team up with a number of Range directors including Robin Russell to launch a bid for the company, which sells Italian-made ovens to UK customers. The bid is set to be at a premium to the company’s current market valuation.

However, the Graphite consortium has lost exclusivity over the negotiations and Range, which is currently valued at over £30m, is understood to be holding talks with other interested parties, including Aga, over a possible trade sale.

Range yesterday announced a rise in pre-tax profits to £4.4m (£3.6m) on turnover of £15.4m, a 14 per cent increase on its previous set of results. Company chairman John Armstrong, who owns 68 per cent of Range’s stock, has been unable to fully participate in negotiations due to illness.

Graphite Capital is the former F&C Ventures division of the Foreign & Colonial Group, which was acquired through a management buyout in early 2001. The firm specialises in mid-market buyout transactions, the most recent of which was the £23 million management buyout of GDA Applied Energy Limited. The firm’s sixth private equity fund was closed in August 1999 at £183m and is now in its third year of investment.