Japanese snap up Kwik-Fit

BRITAIN’S largest tyre retailer, Kwik-Fit, has been sold to a Japanese conglomerate, ITOCHU Corporation, City A.M. can reveal.

The deal, details of which will be announced publicly this morning following its signing yesterday, sees European private equity firm PAI Partners cash out of its six-year ownership of the auto repair chain for £637m, which includes net debts of £457m.

The sale follows a bidding process that kicked off in December, with law firm Baker & McKenzie and investment bank Nomura advising ITOCHU and investment banks Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse running the auction. Though signed, the deal is still subject to regulatory approval by European competition authorities.

PAI bought Kwik-Fit, which included a collection of businesses, for £800m in 2005. But it has sold off many divisions separately since then, making a direct price comparison difficult.

ITOCHU’s purchase of the remaining piece of Kwik-Fit marks a rare case of Japanese capital snapping up a UK-based retailer, although it fits naturally within the group’s portfolio, which also includes Stapleton Tyre Services.

Kwik-Fit currently accounts for 20 per cent of the UK tyre market and employs 4,602 people nationally across 673 branches. It has a further 545 branches across Europe, making it the most widespread tyre services company on the continent.