General Atlantic strikes deal with UK media clan for weather group

Michael Bow
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GENERAL Atlantic, the private equity firm, yesterday swooped to buy a London-based weather forecaster from a consortium of UK newspaper publishers.

The buyout shop has agreed to pay €190m (£160m) to the PA Group consortium for MeteoGroup, which sells weather forecasts to institutions such as the Highways Agency and local councils to help them plan for road gritting in snowy weather.

PA Group is owned by a host of UK publishers, including Daily Mail General Trust, UBM, Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press.

PA Group, which also owns the Press Association, will book £125m in profits from the sale which the publishers will receive in the form of dividends next year, they said in statements yesterday.

US-based General Atlantic, which has a London office led by European managing director John Bernstein, will pay 75 per cent of the price upfront and the rest in a year’s time.

“MeteoGroup is another example of a fast growth European business with global reach,” Bernstein said.

MeteoGroup employs 400 people around the world and competes with the Met Office’s commercial arm to sell weather data to firms in a variety of weather-reliant sectors, including energy and shipping.



The name General Atlantic may not prompt immediate nods of recognition but its investment track record includes some of the world’s best known names. The low profile company, which was founded in 1980, is best known as a backer of Facebook, taking a small stake in the social network group before its New York float. The firm, which is headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, was originally established as an endowment fund by billionaire philanthropist Charles Feeney. It eventually grew to accept cash from third party investors and now manages about $18bn for individuals and institutions. Its London office has been busy this year, buying a 30 per cent stake in UK insurance company Hyperion Insurance Group from rival private equity investor 3i this year. The deal was led by the managing director of its London office John Bernstein, who also helped lead its investment into financial data provider Markit in 2010 and Scottish tech firm FNZ in 2012. Overseas the firm is notable for investing in burgeoning tech companies. It bought US filesharing site Box last year and also owns a stake in China’s version of Ebay, Alibaba, which is bought in 2009. It also used to own the country’s main computer manufacturer, Lenovo.