Private equity firm Bridgepoint plans London listing

UK-based buyout group Bridgepoint Advisers is preparing to list on the London Stock Exchange, in a move that could value the company at about £2bn and mark a rare recent entrance to public markets for a European private equity firm. 

Bridgepoint, which was founded in 2000 after a management buyout from NatWest Equity Partners, is seeking to sell about a quarter of its shares. 

The flotation would see it join a small coterie of publicly traded European buyout groups, including FTSE 100-listed 3i Group, Switzerland-based Partners Group, France’s Eurazeo and EQT of Sweden, which listed in 2019. 

All four are trading at or near all-time highs, as are US-listed peers Blackstone, KKR, Carlyle and Apollo, as the industry sits on record piles of cash.

Bridgepoint has been on a “journey of growth and diversification”, its executive chair William Jackson, who joined its predecessor in 1986 as a graduate trainee, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We expect this strong growth to continue in the near and longer-term as we continue to develop our existing strategies and further broaden our platform.”

The IPO would come at a time when private equity dealmaking has reached record levels in the UK, raising the industry’s profile and sparking a backlash from some shareholders who argue that buyout groups are taking advantage of the fallout from Brexit and the pandemic to snap up companies cheaply.

William Jackson, managing partner at Bridgepoint © Charlie Bibby/FT

Bridgepoint is owned by 140 of its staff and by Dyal Capital Partners, which holds a 20 per cent stake.

Under the proposals, which are at an early stage, all shareholders would sell down equal proportions of their stake and see their holdings diluted. 

The private equity group expects to raise about £300m from issuing new shares, alongside existing shareholders’ sales of a chunk of their equity for about £200m in total.

The extra funds could allow the buyout group, which typically buys companies worth up to about €1.5bn, to inject more cash into its own funds, expand into areas such as real estate and infrastructure and set up new offices. It has opened operations in New York, San Francisco and Amsterdam in recent years.

Private markets are growing “as investors increase allocations to the asset class as a result of the search for yield in a low global interest rate environment,” Bridgepoint said in a statement.

Bridgepoint’s sale of a minority stake to Dyal in 2018 enabled it to buy rival buyout group EQT Partners’ €3.9bn credit arm last year, expanding its role in lending to companies just as the pandemic left businesses in need of loans.

That deal gave Dyal, a unit of money manager Neuberger Berman, access to a share of dividends and carried interest from Bridgepoint. 

Bridgepoint is perhaps best known in the UK for its ownership of coffee and sandwich chain Pret A Manger, which it sold to investment group JAB Holdings in 2018. It has also backed Dorna, which holds the international rights to MotoGP.

The private equity firm has about €26bn in assets under management according to its website, including a €5.8bn flagship European buyout fund.

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