TA Associates puts ION Trading stake up for sale: UPDATED

TA Associates is looking to exit ION Trading after nearly a dozen years, putting its 10 percent stake up for sale, three sources familiar with the situation said.

Evercore is advising on the auction, the sources said. While TA owns a small chunk of ION, Chief Executive Andrea Pignataro, who founded the company in 1999, is believed to own the rest of the company. TA’s 10 percent stake could be valued at $200 million, two of the sources said.

Which firms are bidding for the stake is unclear. “The ‘big’ guys are looking at it,” said one of the sources, referring to large buyout shops that typically invest in the space. That group usually includes Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Blackstone Group, General Atlantic, Hellman & Friedman and Advent International.

Dublin-based ION Trading provides sell-side trading software and services to banks and financial institutions, Moody’s Investors Service said in a June note.

ION Trading produced 287 million euros ($324 million) of 2014 revenue and Ebitda of 143 million euros ($161.5 million), Moody’s said. A sale of all of ION would be valued at about $2 billion, so 10 percent could fetch $200 million, sources said. UPDATE: TA’s sale of its minority stake has been “going on” for the last few months, a different source familiar with the situation said. The growth equity firm has invested a total of $200 million in ION since 2004, the source said. TA is expected to realize $700 million in total proceeds, which includes prior exits but is mostly from the current sale of its minority stake, the person said. ION, the source said, is doing “quite well” and would be valued at $4 billion to $5 billion euros ($4.5 billion to $5.6 billion).

ION has been a long hold for the firm. TA invested in ION Trading back in 2004 when the growth equity firm paid $44 million for a minority stake.

ION bought Wall Street Systems for more than $500 million in 2011, Buyouts reported at the time. In 2013 ION then acquired Triple Point Software for $800 million, Buyouts said. ION Investment Group, a holding company, owns ION Trading, Triple Point, and Wall Street Systems.

“TA has been looking to get out for several years,” a separate source said.

It’s unknown which fund TA used to invest in ION. The firm closed TA IX LP, a $2 billion pool, in 2000, a statement said. In 2004, it also collected $800 million for TA Atlantic and Pacific V mainly from non-U.S. investors.

Performance data for the funds was unavailable.

Executives for TA, Evercore, Hellman & Friedman, Blackstone, Advent, KKR and GA declined comment. ION could not be reached for comment.

Action Item: To contact ION Trading email sales@iontrading.com

(UPDATE: The story has been updated to clarify the total value of the company.)

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