October 20, 2020

DealBook: PAI Partners to Sell Engineering Firm for $3 Billion

PAI Partners, the French buyout firm, said on Tuesday that it had entered into a period of exclusivity with an investment group led by Clayton, Dubilier Rice and AXA Private Equity to sell its stake in the engineering company SPIE.

SPIE was put in play about two months ago, almost five years after PAI bought it for just over a billion euros.  The investment group, which is offering 2.1 billion euros ($3 billion), has emerged with the best bid, but the deal is contingent on talks with SPIE’s labor representatives.

Clayton, Dubilier Rice will own two-thirds of the majority stake in SPIE, with the remaining third split between AXA and the Canadian pension fund, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said.

The private equity firms CVC, Bain and Carlyle all expressed interest in SPIE, but the winning investment group engaged in an accelerated process that took its rivals by surprise, the person said, without elaborating.

Olivier de Vregille, a PAI partner, said that under PAI’s ownership, SPIE “has grown dramatically –- it has acquired more than 50 companies across Europe and its workforce has increased from 23,000 to almost 29,000 -– its operational profit has doubled.”

Annual revenue at the company has grown to 3.8 billion euros last year from 2.8 billion euros in 2006.

The deal is the latest exit for PAI, which has sold its 50 percent stake in Yoplait to General Mills for about 810 million euros this year, and its controlling stake in the Italian clothing retailer Gruppo Coin to BC Partners for 644 million euros.

A group of about 23 percent of SPIE’s employees own 12.75 percent of the company, which specializes in electrical and mechanical engineering, building heating, cooling, energy and communication systems.

Roberto Quarta, a partner at Clayton, Dubilier Rice, said his firm’s previous investment in Rexel, an electronic goods distributor, had exposed it to SPIE’s markets.

“We are highly confident in the resilience of SPIE’s business model and its outstanding growth prospects,” Mr. Quarta  said.

Morgan Stanley and HSBC advised the investment group, the person with knowledge of the matter said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c0913e64429edd67385130b38d65d180

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