* Ratos hires JPMorgan to sell Bisnode -sources
* Sale seen at enterprise value of up to 1.5 times sales
* Business data firm made $80m EBITA on $640m ‘09 revenue
(Adds details on D&B relationship, net debt, analyst comment)
By Quentin Webb and Sven Nordenstam
LONDON/STOCKHOLM, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Ratos AB (RATOb.ST), the Swedish private equity firm, is seeking to sell Bisnode, the business information firm that operates Dun & Bradstreet-branded (DNB.N) credit-checking businesses in 10 European companies.
People familiar with the matter said Ratos, backed by the Soderberg family, has hired JPMorgan (JPM.N) to manage a sale of Stockholm-based Bisnode. The company, Ratos’s third-largest by sales last year, could fetch nearly $1 billion including debt.
Bisnode, a provider of marketing databases, credit reports and business data, could attract both private equity firms and trade rivals. The company is 70 percent owned by Ratos and 30 percent by Sweden’s family-owned Bonnier Group.
Bisnode, Bonnier and Ratos declined to comment.
The group’s credit-checking business competes with the likes of Equifax Inc (EFX.N), Experian Plc (EXPN.L) and Natixis SA (CNAT.PA) unit Coface, while its business-data arm vies with BC Partners’s [BCPRT.UL] Bureau Van Dijk and Reed Elsevier Plc/NV’s (REL.L) ELSN.AS LexisNexis.
Graham Brown, a support services analyst at Evolution Securities, said Bisnode was cash generative and did not require a lot of capital, and with a targeted 15 percent operating margin could fetch 1.2 to 1.5 times sales. That would imply a price tag of some $760 to $950 million, including debt, based on 2009 sales.
The mix of businesses makes it hard to identify a natural trade buyer but Bisnode could interest firms such as Experian, Equifax and privately held U.S. credit scorer TransUnion, Brown added.
Among private equity firms, BC Partners and Advent International, an experienced investor in business services, are two likely suitors, some of the people familiar with the matter said. BC declined to comment. Advent had no immediate comment.
The sale comes three years after Ratos, the company’s majority owner since 2005, dropped plans for a stock-market listing. Ratos pulled the planned flotation in October 2007, blaming market volatility for a lack of investor interest.
Bisnode made earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) of 593 million Swedish kroner ($79.9 million) last year, on revenue of 4.74 billion. It had net debt of 2.54 billion kroner at end-June.
The company is part of D&B’s worldwide network that keeps records on more than 150 million companies. Bisnode owns and operates D&B companies in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Scandinavia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
In May Bisnode said “a still-challenging market situation” had led to weak first-quarter revenue growth. But it said good cost control had helped it deliver continued healthy profitability, strong cash flow and a higher operating margin. (Additional reporting by Simon Meads; Editing by Erica Billingham and David Holmes) ($1=7.424 Swedish Crown)