Wendel mulls Bureau Veritas float

Wendel Investissement, a French listed investment company, reported increased profits and sales at its portfolio companies in 2006, as it considers a listing of its biggest subsidiary.

French private equity firm Wendel Investissement admitted it is considering a float of business services firm Bureau Veritas, as it reported an increase in profits and net asset value in 2006.

Bureau Veritas

Reporting its year-end results for 2006, Wendel said it was considering a flotation of Bureau Veritas, its largest subsidiary, although it would retain a majority control of the business it first backed in 1995. The company’s profits rose to €157 million last year.

Overall, the group said net profits from its businesses were €363 million in 2006, up 23 percent from last year’s figure of €295 million, while sales were up 11 percent to €4.3 billion. It also said its net asset value currently stood at €117 per share, compared with €109 per share in December 2005.

As a result, Wendel is proposing a dividend of €1.70 per share on 2006 results, up from €1.40 last year, plus a €0.30 exceptional dividend.

Wendel began life as a minority investor, but now operates a full-fledged control investor. Chief executive Jean-Bernard Lafonta said the company still had aggressive growth plans: “Our ambition is to double the size of Wendel in the next five years,” he said.

The company plans to put €3 billion of equity to work in the coming years, which includes €2 billion to invest in current portfolio companies, and €1 billion through new investments. Lafonta said Wendel’s firepower was unaffected by this year’s acquisition of US-based Deutsch and Dutch firms Stahl and AVR.

The French group also wants to change its name to just ‘Wendel’; the proposed will be discussed at its annual general meeting.