Amplifon buys NHC Group from Crescent Capital

Crescent Capital Partners, an Australian private equity firm, has sold its stake in NHC Group Pty Ltd, a hearing aid distributor, to Amplifon SA, an Italian hearing aid retailer, in a deal worth A$460 million ($441 million). Crescent had been planning an IPO with NHC, which would have been one of the few IPOs worth more than A$100 million in the Australian market this year.

(Reuters) – Hearing aid retailer Amplifon SA has agreed to buy Australia’s NHC Group Pty Ltd for A$460 million ($441 million) in cash from its private-equity owner, the Italian company said, heading off a planned IPO.

NHC is a hearing aid distributor with 200 clinics in Australia, New Zealand and India, the statement said. [ID:nBIA283d6]

“This strategic acquisition allows the Amplifon Group to enter an important new geographic market with provides significant potential for growth,” Amplifon said.

The owner of National Hearing Care, Australian private equity firm Crescent Capital Partners, had run a dual-track sales process and was heading towards a float of the audiology business, an industry source said earlier this month.

The prospectus for the planned IPO was due to be lodged on Sept. 30 and the shares were due to start trading Oct. 15.

IPOs above A$100 million have been extremely rare in the Australian market this year, with a number of private equity-owned businesses putting float plans on hold until 2011 in the hope that volatile markets will settle.

National Hearing Care runs the largest private audiology practice in Australia with 70 clinics. It expanded into New Zealand in 2008 and opened its first clinics in India this year.

Macquarie and JP Morgan advised Crescent.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval in Australia and New Zealand. (Reporting by Ian Simpson in Milan and Victoria Thieberger in Melbourne; Editing by Mike Nesbit/Ed Davies) ($1=1.042 Australian Dollar)