November 4, 2012 11:14 pm

Investindustrial in PortAventura deal

Private equity groups such as Investindustrial are snapping up discounted Spanish assets©Marc Gasch

Private equity groups such as Investindustrial are snapping up discounted Spanish assets

Investindustrial, the Italian private equity group, has agreed to take full control of PortAventura, Europe’s third-biggest theme park, in a rare vote of confidence in the troubled Spanish economy.

The fund bought an initial 50 per cent holding in PortAventura three years ago, and will now acquire the remaining stake from the industrial holding arm of La Caixa, the Spanish lender. According to Andrea Bonomi, the chairman of Investindustrial, the fund will pay “roughly €120m” for the remaining 50 per cent stake, giving an enterprise value to the entire theme park of €439m.

Mr Bonomi argued that Spain was a promising target for private equity firms and other investors – despite the country’s deepening recession, high unemployment and the continuing weakness of the Spanish banking sector.

“There is a tremendous opportunity to go where others fear to tread,” he said. “From the private equity investor viewpoint, you have the opportunity to buy assets at a discount compared to what they would be worth if they were just 50 metres across the border in France.”

Mr Bonomi added: “There is no way, in the long run, that you can buy assets below replacement cost as you can do now in Spain.”

PortAventura, located south of Barcelona, boasts a theme park with 39 attractions, a water park, four hotels and a convention centre with capacity for 4,000 people. It posted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of €59m last year, a result that Mr Bonomi said would be exceeded in 2012.

Investindustrial already owns a string of investments in Spain, including a stake in Inaer, the emergency helicopter service. Last month, the group revealed that it was joining forces with Trilantic Capital Partners to buy a 48 per cent stake in Euskaltel, a fixed-line and broadband provider in Spain’s Basque region. The two buyers did not disclose the exact purchase price, but said the equity investment exceeded €200m.

Mr Bonomi said his group was aiming to eventually raise its investments in Spain from the current €500m to about €1bn – and was particularly interested in buying further stakes in the leisure and telecommunications sector.

Investindustrial, which claims to be the largest private equity group in southern Europe, has €3.2bn in assets under management. It recently left its most high-profile investment to date – the Ducati motorcycle brand – by selling its majority stake in the company to Audi of Germany for €860m.

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