* Favorable financing conditions bolster deals
* More large-scale deals expected in Germany in 2013
* Sale of Ista, Scandlines, CeramTec launching shortly
By Arno Schuetze
FRANKFURT, Feb 19 Buyout firms are putting a
raft of German assets on the block as recovering markets improve
the availability of bank financing and create the most
attractive exit prices for years.
Among companies looking for new owners are metering company
Ista, ferry group Scandlines, industrial ceramics group Ceramtec
and logistics group Unifeeder.
"Everyone wants to invest in Germany and the Nordics, that's
why 2012 has seen already seen record-breaking prices in M&A
deals," a Germany-based partner of a big U.S.-based private
equity group said, adding he expects the development to continue
In the absence of high-yielding investment opportunities,
the euro zone's largest and most resilient economy is witnessing
high interest for some of the names in private equity
portfolios, bankers said.
Private equity managers - many of whom will gather at the
annual SuperReturn conference in Berlin next week - need to
divest assets to show they can make money for their investors
and raise new funds.
Some of the assets currently being put on the block were
bought in boom times when capital and debt to finance
acquisitions were easily available.
Bankers say that financing markets are now almost back to
Private equity managers acknowledged it was hard during the
financial crisis to get a return on highly-leveraged deals
struck during a time of easy finance and sometimes the assets
were at risk of default.
But that perception has started to change.
"What errors? Leverage was high in 2006/07 deals, but there
haven't been a lot of defaults," one private equity manager
Turning to the present day, he acknowledged that while some
parts of the market, such as bond-driven deals, were becoming
over-heated, the same was not true of the market as a whole.
In Germany, bankers said they are expecting to see many more
large deals this year and a level of medium-sized transactions
that would be stable at least.
Among bigger deals are the sale of energy-metering firm Ista
and ferry group Scandlines, with information
packages due to be sent out in the next couple of
Charterhouse and CVC are expected to get
up to 3 billion euros ($4 billion) for Ista, while 3i
and Allianz Capital Partners could pull in up to 1.4
billion for Scandlines.
Goldman Sachs and KKR are also preparing the
flotation of fork lift truck maker Kion, which is
likely to be valued at more than 2 billion euros and could take
place after the summer break, sources close to the investors
In two transactions that have caught the attention of big
private equity investors, U.S.-based chemicals group Rockwood
has put German assets Sachtleben and CeramTec on the
block, sources close to the deal said.
While large transactions are gaining pace, bankers continue
to work on a flurry of medium-sized deals in Germany.
Montagu has hired UBS to explore options for
internet service provider Host Europe, and with the help of
Hawkpoint is seeking bidders for logistics group Unifeeder, each
deal potentially worth more than 400 million euros.
Star Capital also has two disposals of up to 200 million
euros on its plate.
It is expecting final bids for manufacturer Blohm + Voss Oil
Tools before Easter in a deal organised by Macquarie and will
shortly send out information on retirement home operator
Alloheim, sources close to the transaction said.
Taros Capital has asked for bids for its car parts maker
Carcoustics by mid-March. In the sale, which is being run by
Macquarie, the investor is hoping to attract offers of around
130 million euros, sources close to the deal said.
Private equity investor bluO has hired Rothschild to advise
on the sale of specialty chemicals group AlzChem, while
family-owned car parts groups Scherer&Trier and PV Automotive
have also hired banks for a strategic review which is likely to
result in a sale to private equity investors, sources familiar
with the situation said.
The private equity investors, banks and companies declined
to comment, except for Star Capital, Taros Capital, and
Scherer&Trier, which were not immediately available for comment.