Apax close to buying ISS for up to $8.5bn

Marion Dakers
LONDON-based private equity group Apax Partners has won exclusive talks to buy cleaning giant ISS for up to $8.5bn (£5.3bn), sources close to the companies confirmed yesterday, in what could be the biggest buyout in Europe since the credit crisis.

Apax has several months to thrash out a deal with current owners Goldman Sachs and Swedish buyout company EQT, people close to the negotiations told City A.M.

Danish firm ISS is still pushing ahead with plans for an IPO early next year, with meetings between senior staff scheduled for next week, one source said yesterday, heaping pressure on Apax to table a suitable offer quickly.

“The strategic review is ongoing. We are looking at all the possibilities,” said an ISS spokesperson yesterday, who declined to comment further.

ISS hired Goldman, Rothschild and Morgan Stanley to help consider a flotation or sale in August, following its failed attempt to float three years ago as the credit crisis hit.

Apax is currently bidding alone, and is expected to ask investors and existing debt providers including Citigroup to help fund the deal due to its investment limit of around $1bn. However, a source close to the company said yesterday that the firm had not yet approached potential backers.

Rival bidding groups including CVC Capital and Apollo, and Bain Capital, Nordic Capital, Clayton Dubilier & Rice and Blackstone have reportedly been rejected.

ISS, which was taken off the Danish stock exchange by Goldman and EQT for in 2005, has cleaning contracts with the NHS, Citigroup and UK embassies and produced turnover of DK18.5bn (£2.1bn) in the latest quarter. It employs around 45,000 people in the UK, which is its second-largest market.

Apax, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs declined to comment, while CVC Capital and Citi could not be reached.