RLPC-Bankers prep $7.0 bln debt for buyouts

Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:48am EST

* Leveraged M&A pipeline upbeat for 2013

* AA likely candidate for buyout backed with 2 bln pounds debt

* Bankers circle ista, Springer Science sales

By Claire Ruckin and Isabell Witt

LONDON, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Bankers are working on debt packages totalling around 5.5 billion euros ($7.0 billion) for a string of buyouts which are a welcome relief after a dearth of M&A activity this year.

The buyouts - which include motoring services group AA, academic book publisher Springer Science & Business Media, and meter-reading company ista International - are part of a growing pipeline of deals set for 2013, bankers said on Friday.

M&A loan volume is down 53 percent to $20.9 billion year-to-date, according to Thomson Reuters LPC data.

"All of a sudden, within a few weeks, sponsors are thinking about buying and selling assets. The pipeline is building for 2013 and these are not just straightforward refinancings like we have seen recently but proper new deals that require underwriting. It is very good for the market," a banker said.

Bankers said they have been asked to provide indicative debt and leveraged levels needed to back a buyout of the AA.

The 107-year-old AA and over-50's insurance and travel company Saga are owned by Acromas, which appointed Ernst & Young to carry out vendor due diligence earlier this year as its private equity owners Charterhouse, CVC and Permira explored valuations for the companies as two separate entities.

Banks are working on AA or Saga to discuss buyout and pre or post-IPO financing, respectively, as Saga is a likely candidate for flotation, bankers said.

Debt for an AA buyout will be approximately 2 billion pounds ($3.2 billion) in sterling and euros via the leveraged loan and high yield bond market, they said.

Acromas was formed in 2007 though the 6.2 billion pound private equity-backed merger of AA and Saga, which was funded with a 4.8 billion pound leveraged loan.

GERMAN ACTIVITY

Private equity firms EQT and GIC Special Investments of Singapore were expected to sell German Springer Science, bankers said, after previously considering options to sell the company or refinance it.

JP Morgan has been mandated to advise on the process, which could also result in an IPO, and an information memorandum is being put together to send to potential buyers, bankers said.

The company could attract interest from private equity or trade buyers including German media group Bertelsmann as the company has performed well and EBITDA has risen to around 330 million euros, from 310 million in 2011, bankers said.

Bankers are putting together debt packages in excess of 1 billion euros to back a potential buyout if a private equity firm were successful, the bankers said.

EQT and GIC acquired Springer Science & Business Media in 2009 for 2.3 billion euros from Candover and Cinven, backed by 1.72 billion euros debt, according to TRLPC data.

Springer Science is the world's second-largest publisher of scientific research journals in science, technology and medicine and is the largest publisher of books in the field, according to EQT.

Elsewhere, Charterhouse, which bought German firm ista in 2007 for 2.4 billion euros backed with 2.1 billion debt, is set to sell, bankers said.

Potential buyers are lining up and bankers are working on debt packages of around 2 billion euros to back any buyout, they said, adding Goldman Sachs will likely run the sales process.

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