3i milks Senoble exit

UK buyouts house 3i has sold its minority stake in Senoble, a French family-owned producer of dairy products, after seeing its turnover almost double in four years.

The Senoble family, led by fourth generation Marc Senoble, now owns 100% of the business after 3i acquired a 25% stake in 2004.

Senoble is the third largest manufacturer of yoghurts, dairy products and chilled deserts in France behind Danone and Lactalis-Nestle. Since 3i took its slice, the company has seen its turnover grow from €630m to over €1.1bn, and international business has increased from 25% to 55%. The London-headquartered firm supported four foreign acquisitions, including Elisabeth The Chef of the UK.

Whilst the French economy is expected to be spared the full brunt of the credit crunch, there has been some slowing down of the private equity market as deal flow dries up (see EVCJ April 2008). According to the UK data house CMBOR, after reaching a record value of €34.5bn in 2006, buyouts in France fell back to end 2007 at €24.1bn. The number of deals fell marginally to 224, and the average deal value declined to €112m in 2007 and there were 24 buyouts above €250m last year, exactly the same as the 2006 figure.

3i currently has around 60 French deals in its portfolio, and the sale of Senoble is the firm’s second exit in the country this year. Back in January 3i sold its stake in Défimode, French clothing retail chain, to Vivarte Group and Klepierre, after a €20m investment in 2006.