Private equity rivals join কে 3.7bn bid for Petcare Group Zooplus

Private equity group Hellman & Friedman and EQT have ended a bidding battle for pet food retailer Zooplus with a joint offer worth € 3.7bn, the latest example of the industry paying a huge premium to buy a listed business.

Juplus said Monday it had made a final offer of € 480 per share above 85 percent of the three-month trading benchmark before the start of the bidding war.

According to Refinitive, buyout groups are paying the highest premiums in more than two decades, following a record-breaking fundraising and intense competition for contracts, an average of 45 percent for European companies in 2021.

The premium being paid for the company is “significant,” Cornelius Pat, chief executive of Juplus, said in a statement.

“The highest priority for management was to work in the best interests of the company throughout the process and to maximize value for our shareholders while ensuring transactions,” he said.

Hellman & Friedman began fighting for control of the petcare company in August with a 0 390 share offer. Zooplus said it was discussing possible bids with KKR and EQT. The offer was raised to € 460 in September. EQT, which already owns veterinary surgery roll-up IVC Evidensia, bid € 470 in September and Hellman & Friedman agreed to match it this month.

Under the agreement, which is backed by Juplus management and its supervisory board, EQT will join Hellman and Friedman’s bidding car with equal governance rights. The deal requires the approval of more than 50 percent of Zooplus shareholders.

“Through this initiative, we have found a solution to the current stalemate in the tender process and to enable continued investment efforts,” said Stefan Goetz, a partner at Hellman & Friedman, and Johannes Reichel, an equity partner, in a joint statement.

This is a relatively rare example of competing private equity bidders joining a deal. In February, Blackstone and Global Infrastructure Partners took a similar step, ending a takeover battle with a joint £ 3.5 billion bid for signature aviation, a UK-listed private jet service company.

Zooplus, one of Europe’s largest online petcare retailers, has benefited from increased pet ownership during the epidemic. Its sales rose 18 percent last year and its shares have risen more than 400 percent since the end of February 2020.

According to Euromonitor International, global petcare spending will grow 8.7 percent in 2020.

In another recent example of large premiums being paid by private equity, US groups Clayton, Dublier and Rice agreed to buy UK supermarket WM Morrison at a premium of 61 per cent of the share price before a bidding battle began this month.

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