Lion takes on AS Adventure

Lion Capital is positioning itself to capitalise from the growing interest in outdoor sports. It is buying AS Adventure, the Belgium-based retailer of outdoor equipment and clothing, for €263m. It sells biking, trekking, climbing, skiing and camping accessories and casual outdoor clothing.

The firm retails branded goods and owns a total of 85 stores spread across three countries. In Belgium, it retails under the name AS Adventure, in the UK as Cotswold Outdoor and in the Netherlands as Bever Zwerfsport. In Belgium and the Netherlands the chain is number one in its field and it holds the number two slot in the UK.

“AS Adventure has been very successful in pursuing a distinctive retail concept that offers consumers a high quality, specialised branded product,” said Robert Darwent, a partner with Lion Capital.

The company, started in 1995, has grown fast in line with increasing interest in outdoor sports and this year is enjoying sales of €205m. Indeed, the chain has potential to expand through the opening of more stories in its key markets and also by targeting other European countries.

“The business has tremendous potential for further growth, both within its current store portfolio and through further penetration of its core markets through new store openings,” Darwent said.

The interest in outdoor sports is a Europe-wide phenomenon driven by a desire for healthier lifestyles and to be closer to nature. Indeed, it is just the kind of concept that makes it an ideal mid-cap investment for a private equity concern.

Emiel Lathouwers, the chief executive and founder of AS Adventure, said he was attracted to Lion Capital because of its breadth of experience in investing in speciality retailing formats. Former Lion Capital investments include Jimmy Choo and La Senza.

“We believe that Lion Capital is uniquely positioned to support the future growth and expansion of our business,” Lathouwers said.

Lion Capital was advised by SJ Berwin and PricewaterhouseCoopers, with the financing provided by Lloyds TSB.