Brookfield wins race to land deal for Center Parcs
CANADIAN investment giant Brookfield yesterday won a hotly contested race to buy UK holiday parks operator Center Parcs from private equity firm Blackstone in a deal worth about £2.4bn.
Brookfield, which also bought Canary Wharf’s owner alongside Qatari Investment Authority earlier this year, will take control of five resorts operated by Center Parcs across the UK through its property subsidiary Brookfield Property Partners.
Blackstone, which used advisers from Rothschild, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, and lawyers from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, bought Center Parcs in 2006.
It was working on a dual track process to either list the group on the stock market or sell it outright to a buyer. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and CVC Capital Partners are also said to have been in the running to buy the group.
Center Parcs opened its first-ever UK resort, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, in 1987
Alongside Sherwood, Brookfield will take control of the Longleat Forest resort in Wiltshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, the Elveden Forest resort in Suffolk and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire.
It marks the second trophy acquisition by Brookfield in the UK, after the Canary Wharf takeover in April.
Center Parcs boss said the deal marked the “beginning of an exciting new chapter” for the company.
“From the first time we met, Brookfield has demonstrated a real understanding of our business, and I am absolutely convinced that we can work together to achieve our strategic goals,” he added.
Gerry Murphy, chairman of Blackstone’s international arm said: “Having bought Center Parcs in 2006 and invested in its growth, it has been an excellent investment for us.
“We are sure that it will go on to even greater success under new ownership. The management and employees of Center Parcs are outstanding and will take the business on to a new chapter in its story.”
Center Parcs reported revenues of £314.6m for the year ending April 2014. It has managed average occupancy rates of 97 per cent over the last five years, as cash strapped holiday makers shun foreign jaunts for so-called staycations in the UK.
BEHIND THE DEAL
DAVID HIGGINS – FRESHFIELDS BRUCKHAUS DERINGER
1 Higgins is the co-head of magic circle Freshfields’ global financial investors sector group, focusing on private equity deals and sovereign wealth funds.
2 His long-standing clients include Blackstone, Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and Cinven, who he has advised on a host of takeovers.
3 The lawyer is currently a corporate partner at Freshfields. He made partner in 2001
On the legal side, Freshfields senior associate James Scott also advised Blackstone. Partners Simone Bono, Marcus Mackenzie and Michael Steele advised on financing aspects of the deal.