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December 10, 2021
2021 has been a huge year for private equity in Britain, with the industry taking advantage of depressed company valuations. We round-up some of the biggest British buys of the year to help enhance your commercial awareness.

December 2020 – LV sold

In December 2020, mutual insurer Liverpool Victoria (LV) announced its sale to Bain Capital for £530 million. Since then, LV’s board has faced mounting criticism over a paltry £100 payout to each of its members. 10th December 2021 will mark a members vote to determine whether the sale goes through.

January – AA’s Takeover

In January, Automobile Association (AA) shareholders approved a £218 takeover deal from private equity firms Towerbrook Capital and Warburgh Pincus. The duo have agreed to inject new investment of £378 million into the business and form a plan to address AA’s debt pile of £2.6 billion.

February – Signature Aviation Sold

In February, private equity firms Blackstone and Global Infrastructure Partners joined forces to bid £3.5 billion the FTSE 250-listed private jet services business Signature Aviation. The duo assumed ownership in June and plan to expand Signature Aviation’s US offering.

May – John Laing Bought

In May, private equity firm KKR bought British infrastructure firm John Laing for roughly £2 billion. The FTSE 250-listed group, which is one of London’s best-known infrastructure investors, owns assets such as schools and hospitals across the globe. KKR has since proposed a £225 million cash injection into John Laing’s pension fund.

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June – Bumper Buying Month

St Modwen Buyout

In June, property company St. Modwen accepted a Blackstone £1.3 billion buyout. In August, St. Modwen was de-listed and has since seen the whole of the board tender their resignations with the exception of Chief Executive Sarwijt Sambhi. Blackstone plans to plough significant investment into St Modwen’s logistics arm.

Sanne Equiniti Bought

Global private equity firm Cinven raised a May bid to £1.42 billion to buy asset management services provider Sanne Equiniti. The offer was successful.

Itsu Sold

Bridgepoint – backer of the Azzurri Group, Burger King and Deliveroo – signed a deal with Japanese healthy eating chain Itsu. The deal is expected to value Itsu at £100 million and will see Bridgepoint take a major stake in the company. Bridgepoint plans to opening another 100 stores and create 2000 new jobs within the next 5 years. This is a commendable aim given the pandemic’s effect on the hospitality industry.

Lone Star Loses Bid To Buy Senior

Lone Star sought to takeover aerospace and defence company Senior. Lone Star made 5 bids before withdrawing. Senior cited anticipation of a strong recovery as one reason why they rejected the offers.

August – Vectura Bidding War

In August, Carlyle bid £958 million for inhaler maker Vectura. However, the private equity group was outbid by tobacco giant Philip Morris International by £44 million. Many medics, health charities and politicians have criticised the deal given PMI’s conflicting interests.

October – Morrisons Auction

In October, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice won Morrisons in a £10 billion auction. The deal has been criticised as some are concerned that private equity will strip Morrisons for parts and lay off thousands of the workforce. In December, the takeover was put on ice until 2022  due to market volatility.

December – Blue Prism Bidding War

In September, American private equity firm Vista Equity Partners agreed a deal to takeover British software company Blue Prism for £1.1 billion. Blue Prism CEO Jason Kingdom had stated that he believes the combination with Vista will ensure the company represents the ‘next generation of intelligent automation’. However, on December 8, Vista Equity Partners revealed they were pulling out after their takeover bid was beaten by “a superior offer”. The board instead recommended the bid from American investment giant SS&C Technologies, which valued the firm at £1.2 billion instead.

Talking points

  • Which industries have been particularly targeted?
  • What is the ratio of US to British private equity firms who takeover British companies?
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