3i Mulls Sale or Float for Ambea

(Reuters) – Private equity group 3i (III.L) is exploring selling Nordic care home operator Ambea or listing it on a stock market, several bankers close to the deal said on Wednesday.

Private Capital

The company, which operates under its Mehiläinen and Carema brands, could fetch somewhere in the 700 million to 1 billion euro ($1.40 billion) range, the bankers said, higher than last year’s estimate of around 600 million to 700 million euros.

Ambea, which provides specialist healthcare in nursing homes and for disabled people, generates stable cash flows.

However, with operations in Sweden, Finland and Norway it could present a multi-jurisdiction challenge for a private equity buyer, according to one of the bankers.

The group generated earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of roughly 70 million euros ($98.08 million) in 2009, several bankers said.

Ambea said 2008 EBITDA was 658.3 million Swedish crowns ($91.33 million), while net debt stood at 2.8 billion Swedish crowns.

Other privately-owned European companies have explored both a public listing and a sale, including UK pet shop chain Pets at Home, which KKR [KKR.UL] bought from Bridgepoint last week for 955 million pounds including debt. [ID:nLDE60Q0BM]

3i explored a possible sale of Ambea earlier last year, but desisted as the credit crisis froze activity in the European leveraged buyout market, one banker said.

Possible bidders now include Advent International, BC Partners [BCPRT.UL] and Investor AB (INVEb.ST) working alongside Goldman Sachs, according to two bankers.

Ambea is majority-owned by 3i Group and related funds, which hold 75 percent of the company, while GIC owns 15.1 percent and management owns the remaining 9.1 percent.

3i, Advent International and BC Partners declined to comment while Investor AB and Goldman Sachs could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Zaida Espana and Quentin Webb; additional reporting by Sven Nordenstam in Stockholm and Simon Meads in London; Editing by Erica Billingham)