The private equity group backed by Bank of America today has made a shock £155m swoop to buy Freeport, it emerged this morning.
Carlyle announced it had made a 410p recommended cash offer for Freeport - less than six weeks after withdrawing an earlier 437p a share bid to buy the struggling European retail park owner.
The long-awaited takeover follows months of turmoil during which Freeport parted company with former chief executive Sean Collidge and was forced to write-down the value of its property portfolio after failing to attract enough occupiers to its flagship retail outlet at Alcohete in Portugal.
The 410p a share price reflects a premium of 12.3% to Freeport’s closing mid-market price of 365p on 16 March.
Carlyle has received irrevocable undertakings to accept the offer in respect of 49.2% of Freeport’s shares. The Guinness Peat Group, Schroder Investment Management and activist shareholder Laxey Partners, which owns around 30% of Freeport, have all approved the bid.
Commenting on behalf of Carlyle, Robert Hodges, said: ‘We believe the combination of Carlyle's pan-European real estate experience and the Freeport management team's specialised experience of running designer outlet villages will combine to form a unique partnership to help grow the Freeport business. The Company's assets fit our investment strategy profile for uncovering added value through active asset management. The outlets in Gothenburg, Excalibur and Lisbon offer potential for increased occupancy and expansion whilst potential development opportunity is provided by the Roppenheim site."
Robin Binks, chairman of Freeport, added: ‘The Freeport board believes that the management action now being implemented will help improve the performance of our existing centres and help secure our development pipeline. Carlyle’s offer is, nevertheless, attractive as it removes any performance or timing risks and gives shareholders a cash premium to net asset value which compares well to recent offers for UK listed property companies.’
Freeport owns three shopping outlets - near Lisbon, on the Czech/Austrian border and in Sweden. The Portuguese site has suffered high vacancy levels since it was built two years ago. The company also has two development sites in the south of France.