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Arle Capital freezes sale of Spain’s Parques Reunidos — Reuters

(Reuters) – The private equity owners of Parques Reunidos have put on ice plans to sell the Spanish zoo, marine and water park operator that could have valued the business at about 2 billion euros, six sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Offers for the company, which is owned by UK-based private equity fund Arle Capital, came short of the owner’s price expectations, the sources said, the second time owners have had to call off plans for this reason in five years.

Arle Capital said the theme park had not been put up for sale.

“No bank has been mandated to sell the business, there has been no sale process and nor will there be one for the foreseeable future,” Ben Foster, a spokesperson for Arle Capital at Pendomer Communications said.

Madrid-based Parques Reunidos operates 72 amusement and theme parks, water parks, marine life centres and zoos around the world including Italy’s Mirabilandia, France’s Aquasplash and the Miami Seaquarium, which it bought in July this year.

Parques struggled through the financial crisis as recession-hit consumers cut back on spending. Arle tried to sell the group in 2010 but dropped the process after receiving low bids.

That year, Arle was spun out of failed fund Candover Capital, a leading UK private equity fund which became a high-profile casualty of the financial crisis.

One of the sources said Arle had now decided to put off the sale until next year at least.

Spain has been touted as an attractive opportunity for equity investors as it firmly puts a recession behind it to record one of the highest economic growth rates in the euro zone.

Earlier this month, airports operator AENA floated a stake in a heavily-subscribed initial public offering and shares have risen over 30 percent since then.

In 2013, U.S. buyout firm KKR bought a 49.9 percent stake in another Spanish amusement park operator, PortAventura, for more than 200 million euros. Italian private equity firm Investindustrial, which first invested in PortAventura in 2009, kept 50.1 percent of the business.