Car parts firm Autodis sets course for French share listing, say sources: Reuters

The U.S. private equity owner of French vehicle spare parts distributor Autodis [ATDST.UL] is selecting banks for a share sale next year in a deal that could value the business at more than 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion), six sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Bain Capital, which has controlled the aftermarket spare parts distributor for less that 24 months, is preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) of shares in Paris and has invited banks to pitch for a role in what could be one of the country’s biggest listings next year, they said.

A competition to select banks for the IPO took place in early December with Bain hoping to get the business valued at around 2 billion euros, one of the sources said.

He added that there was no interest in running an auction process in conjunction with the share sale in what is known as a ‘dual track’ process to maximize the price.

“The only focus is on taking the company public and a decision on banks is imminent,” he said.
Bain and Autodis declined to comment.

Merger activity in the aftermarket auto parts industry is picking up as the average age of vehicles increases in slow-growing economies, such as those in many European countries.

But finding an industry buyer for Autodis is a tall order as most sector players including U.S. parts retailer LKQ (LKQ.O) have recently clinched major deals and are not yet ready to embark on new acquisitions, two of the sources said.

In 2015 LKQ bought Italy’s Rhiag from private equity firm Apax to expand in the European auto spares market, while on Dec. 11 it agreed to buy Germany’s Stahlgruber in a $1.8 billion deal.

Stahlgruber was valued at almost 12 times its EBITDA and this could be Autodis’s top line valuation when it goes public, according to another source.

Autodis, which specializes in selling spare parts for light vehicles and trucks, has more than 100 million euros of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Last year it had adjusted EBITDA of 92.4 million euros on revenues of 1.2 billion euros.

Based in Arcueil, on the edge of Paris, Autodis has a long history of private equity ownership as buyout funds have repeatedly injected capital for more than a decade.

In 2006 Bahrain-based Investcorp acquired the firm, also known as Autodistribution Group, but struggled to make profits as the industry suffered a dramatic fall in demand, with manufacturers, dealers and suppliers all affected.

Autodis went through a long restructuring with private equity firm TowerBrook Capital taking a majority stake in 2009 as part of a debt-for-equity swap deal and managing its turnaround until 2015 when it sold it to Bain.

As part of its buy-and-build strategy Bain made a number of bolt-on acquisitions to take Autodis into other European markets, including the purchase of three Italian businesses – Ovam, Top Car and Ricauto.

Bain was among those vying to secure control of Germany’s Stahlgruber as it was hoping to merge it with Autodis and create a European champion in auto-parts distribution.

Having lost out to U.S. rival LKQ, the U.S. investment firm decided to seek a stock market listing instead, the sources said.