August 21, 2013 1:38 pm

ISS names Sir Charles Allen chairman

ISS, the Danish cleaning and catering group part-owned by Nordic buyout group EQT and Goldman Sachs, has appointed Sir Charles Allen as chairman as it considers reviving plans to float.

Sir Charles, the 56-year-old former chief executive of British rival Compass and UK broadcaster ITV, is succeeding Ole Andersen, who has decided to step down after more than eight years as a director of the company. Henrik Poulsen, the former chief executive of TDC, the Danish telecoms operator, is also joining the board, ISS said on Wednesday.

Morten Hummelmose, head of EQT Partners’ Danish operations, said: “This change is very timely. The company is performing well and is on the right path for further success, including a likely initial public offering process within a few years.”

ISS will not be Sir Charles’ first experience within a private equity-backed company, having held senior roles at EMI Music between 2008 and 2010 following the label’s leveraged takeover by Terra Firma. His tenure at the debt-laden music company, which was later seized by its lender, was not tranquil. He became executive chairman of the company’s recorded music unit after the sudden departure of its chief executive, only to step down four months later in another management shake-up.

Like many of the larger leveraged buyouts of the credit boom, ISS, one of the world’s biggest private sector employers with more than half a million staff, has not been an easy investment for its private equity owners. The Copenhagen-based company was bought by EQT and Goldman Sachs in 2005 for DKr21.9bn, prompting controversy after a group of bondholders threatened legal action over the scale of the debt involved.

ISS’s private equity owners – which typically look to sell an investment after three to five years of ownership – had to drop plans to list the group in 2007 amid market volatility on the eve of the financial crisis. They have failed since then to either resurrect an IPO or arrange a sale. Talks to merge it with smaller UK rival G4S fell apart in 2011, a few months after London buyout group Apax dropped a €6.5bn bid for the company.

Last year, the shareholders sold a 26 per cent stake to Ontario Teachers, a Canadian pension fund, and Kirkbi, which invests funds from the family behind Lego toys, to pay down debt and facilitate a move towards a fresh attempt to float the company. The deal valued ISS at €5.8bn including debt.

The Danish group on Wednesday reported half-year revenues of DKr39.6bn ($7.1bn) – including organic growth of 3.5 per cent – and net profit of DKr131m, compared with a net loss of DKr297m in the same period last year.

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