3i returns to UK market with Aspen Pumps swoop

Ollie Gordon
3i chief executive Simon Borrows
3i, the FTSE 100-listed private equity behemoth, is set to seal its first British deal since 2011 with the acquisition of Sussex-based manufacturer Aspen Pumps, it emerged yesterday.

The buyout firm is on the verge of agreeing a deal with the manufacturer’s owner Inflexion Private Equity. The deal is expected to result in a considerable windfall for Inflexion, with the firm making a strong profit on its original investment, having bought Aspen in 2007 when it was worth just £25m. Catalyst Corporate Finance is advising Inflexion on the deal.

Established in 1992 by three engineers, Aspen makes parts for boilers and air-conditioning units. particularly specialising in condensation removal. The firm made a £1.1m profit last year, working with suppliers in over 100 countries.

If completed, the deal will be a homecoming for the London-based 3i, representing its first foray into the UK market for four years, according to data from research firm Dealogic.

Originally launched as the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation in 1945 to encourage small business growth after the war, 3i owns a number of British firms including lingerie maker Agent Provocateur.

Chief executive Simon Borrows initiated a restructuring plan in 2012 and the group subsequently started targeting growth areas such as private debt and infrastructure.

Despite conducting most deals outside the UK, the firm has in recent months been circling British companies including paint maker Farrow & Ball and media firm Gorkana.

3i was advised on the transaction by Robert W. Baird.

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