Private equity: LBO in France
Latham & Watkins combines a deep bench with longstanding experience and complementary strength in leveraged finance, making the group a titan in the market. The team acts on the biggest LBO transactions in France and has a wide range of expertise in the buy-outs of private and public companies, including competitive auctions, carve-outs and joint ventures. The practice attracts a stellar and varied client list that features fund sponsors, investors, banks and sellers alike. The key contacts are Alexander Benedetti, Denis Criton, Alexander Crosthwaite, Thomas Forschbach, Gaëtan Gianasso, Charles-Antoine Guelluy and Olivier du Mottay.
‘The corporate practice is unique in terms of skills.‘
‘Denis Criton is one of the best private equity lawyer in the French market.‘
CMP Capital Management Partners
- Advised BC Partners on its €3.25n sale of Antelliq Group to Merck.
- Assisted KKR and the founders of Webhelp with the €2.4bn sale of Webhelp to Groupe Bruxelles Lambert.
- Advised Ardian on its €1.35m sale of Siaci Saint Honoré to its management together with Charterhouse.
Private equity heavyweight Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP remains among the most active practices in the market. Visible across all market segments, including the large-cap, the group primarily acts for private equity sponsors and further strengthened its standing in the market with the arrival of Benjamin de Blégiers from Clifford Chance in April 2019, signalling the expansion of the team's infrastructure practice. The workload attests to the practice's wide sectorial range and prowess in cross-border matters, and it has recently been active in the technology, pharmaceutical, and healthcare and consumer product sectors. David Aknin directs the practice. Also noted are Jean Beauchataud, Frédéric Cazals, Alexandre Duguay and Emmanuelle Henry.
‘Very switched on and commercial professionals. Very entrepreneurial and extremely client-focused. A pleasure to work with them.‘
‘Benjamin de Blégiers is practical with great commercial acumen and extremely client-oriented.‘
Montagu Private Equity
Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan
Weinberg Capital Partners
- Advised CVC on the €2.2bn sale of Linxens to Tsinghua Unigroup.
- Assisted Montagu with the €1.025bn sale of Nemera to Astorg and the 50% reinvestment of Montagu.
- Advised Oaktree on the disposal of Verescence to Stirling Square Capital Partners for a total in excess of €100m.
Bredin Prat impresses with its wide private equity offering, including a strong transactional practice in addition to stellar tax structuring credentials and a strong financing team. The group regularly acts for French and international investment funds, but also assists family offices, smaller funds and shareholders of target companies in the context of buy-out operations. Domestic transactions account for the bulk of the workload, but the practice also demonstrates strength in cross-border matters, particularly in cases involving the US and Canada. Florence Haas is the key practitioner. Olivier Assant and Adrien Simon are also active in the space.
‘Very business- and solution-oriented. Availability around the clock to get the job done. Very up-to-date knowledge of the market practice.‘
‘Available, technically very competent, yet commercial. Very friendly team.‘
‘Olivier Assant: very commercial, knows how to draw the big picture.‘
‘Florence Haas: very diligent, technically precise, amazing work ethic.‘
‘Florence Haas: excellent knowledge of the market. Very solution-oriented and business-oriented in approach. Excellent at managing opposing counsel. Relentless efforts to find common ground and help to get the deal done.‘
- Advised Five Arrows Principal Investments on its attempt to acquire Eres, a specialist in employee savings plans.
- Advised Equistone Partners Europe on the acquisition of Courir from Groupe Go Sport for a total of €283m.
Clifford Chance impresses with its wide sectorial range; track record as adviser on large buy-out transactions in the French market; high volume of transactions; ancillary strengths in financing, fund formation, tax structuring and M&A; and cross-border strength. Core sectors include the consumer goods and retail sectors, the healthcare and telecoms sectors, the financial services sector as well as the aerospace and defence sectors. Fabrice Cohen and Marianne Pezant are the practice heads. Gilles Lebreton and Laurent Schoenstein are other key contacts. Infrastructure specialist Benjamin de Blégiers joined Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in April 2019.
‘Very good knowledge of PE industry practices. Solid understanding of commercial matters. Ability to put themselves in lenders’ position to understand key potential issues.‘
‘General availability, professionalism, ability to put forward ideas to sort out difficult situations.‘
SCOR Investment Partners SE
- Advised Primonial group and Primonial managed entities on their 50% investment in a healthcare real estate portfolio in Germany, owned by Medical Properties Trust, for a total in excess of €1.635bn.
- Assisted the consortium composed of APG, QIC and Swiss Life with its acquisition of a 36% stake in Brussels Airport.
- Advised PAI Partners on the €1.9bn disposal of the B&B Hotels group to Goldman Sachs.
De Pardieu Brocas Maffei remains a go-to firm for mid-market leveraged buy-outs and has strong transactional expertise in addition to strong financing and tax credentials. Distressed LBO transactions are another area of strength. The group is experienced in advising buyers and sellers, but also has notable expertise acting for managers. Domestic transactions account for the bulk of the workload, but the team is also adept at assisting with cross-border matters. Matthieu Candia was promoted to counsel in April 2019 and tax specialist Priscilla van den Perre was made up to partner in July 2019. Practice heads Jean-François Pourdieu and Cédric Chanas are the key names. Tax partner Nadine Gelli joined Kirkland & Ellis LLP in January 2020.
‘Real experts in their field. Irreproachable involvement in the matters. Remarkable attitude during negotiations.‘
‘Cédric Chanas is an excellent professional and gets along very well with the managers of small and medium-sized enterprises.‘
21 Centrale Partners
Five Arrows Managers
- Advising Weinberg Capital on the sale of its 66% stake in Agence pour la Diffusion de l’Information Technologique to Parquest Capital for a total of €130m.
- Acted for Dentressangle on the €370m acquisition of a majority stake in French medtech company Acteon Group from Bridgepoint Development Capital.
- Advised EMZ, Tikehau Investment Management and Idia on their acquisition of a minority stake in the capital share of Spie Batignolles alongside 200 new managers, Société Générale Capital Partenaire and Socadif.
DLA Piper has further bolstered its numbers at partner level with the promotion of Matthieu Lampel, a specialist in leveraged buy-outs, restructuring and M&A, in May 2019. The group stands out for its ability to assist with transactions across all market segments and acts for managers and private equity sponsors alike. As part of a global law firm, the Paris team is well placed to advise on transactions with a strong cross-border component and frequently joins forces with colleagues from the firm's offices abroad. Xavier Norlain and Jeremy Scemama are the heads of the practice. Fund formation specialists Benjamin Aller, Julien Vandenbussche and senior counsel George Pinkham are also noted.
‘Committed and highly experienced. Ability to manage large as well as small deals.‘
Hivest Capital Partners
Rothschild & Co
- Advised the management of B&B Hôtels Group on exclusive negotiations with PAI Partners for the acquisition of B&B Hôtels Group by the Merchant Banking Division of Goldman Sachs.
- Assisted the founders and management of Circet with the sale of their participation in Circet and the reinvestment alongside Advent International.
- Advised Bridgepoint on the acquisition of a majority interest in HTL Biotechnology Group.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
Goodwin excels in domestic and cross-border mandates thanks to the strong Paris team and the firm's international network, including particularly strong practices in the UK and the US. Active across all market segments in France, the practice is part of the full-service private equity offering in Paris and counts investors, portfolio companies and management teams among its clients. Key practitioners include practice head Maxence Bloch, Jérôme Jouhanneaud, Thomas Maitrejean, Christophe Digoy and Thomas Dupont-Sentilles. Pierre-Louis Sévegrand joined Chammas & Marcheteau in January 2019.
‘The team acts as one squad, shares the same culture and solution-driven mindset.‘
‘Christophe Digoy is a wonderful lawyer. Pragmatic, smart, available, bold, focused and efficient.‘
‘David Diamant is a clever lawyer. He has an incredible sense of the legal matter. He is well organised and delivers a very good job.‘
- Advised Exclusive Group and its management on a new investment from Permira.
- Acted for Equistone Partners Europe on the sale of Averys to Blackstone.
- Advised Albingia and its management on the sale of the group to Eurazeo.
Linklaters combines a strong international platform with a wide-ranging private equity offering from the Paris office, and is also able to draw on practitioners from the firm's tax, infrastructure, real estate, restructuring, financing and competition law practices. The group has a broad spectrum of expertise, including primary and secondary buy-outs, infrastructure buy-outs and distressed LBO transactions. Fabrice de la Morandière and Bruno Derieux are the practice heads. Other key names include Pierre Thomet and Marc Petitier; the latter handles transactions across all market segments, and has been kept busy recently advising on large-cap and upper mid-cap transactions. Vincent Ponsonnaille and Laurent-Victor Michel joined Kirkland & Ellis LLP in January 2019.
CVC Capital Partners
Deutsche Bank AG
Montagu Private Equity
- Advised Apax Partners on the €800m sale of Inseec U., a group of management and business schools with operations in France, Europe, the US and China, to Cinven.
- Assisted Ardian with the sale of a portfolio of infrastructure and energy assets across Europe for a total in excess of €1bn.
- Advised the founder, shareholders and managers of Magnolia on the leveraged buy-out sponsored by Qualium Investissement, maintaining the founder as majority shareholder of Magnolia and introducing Qualium Investissement as minority stakeholder.
Paul Hastings LLP
Paul Hastings LLP is a popular choice for mid-market transactions, but is increasingly visible in large-cap transactions, often involving a cross-border component. The group successfully attracted a number of new clients and continues to gain in market share, not least because of the strength of the firm's finance, tax, employment and competition teams in the Paris office, which enable the practice to offer its clients a well-rounded service. Olivier Deren heads the practice and leads on the bulk of the workload, with key support from Sébastien Crepy. Alexis Terray is also noted. Charles Cardon joined from Dechert LLP in September 2019.
‘Unique knowledge of PE best practices, very responsive and efficient to win a deal.‘
‘Excellent team with both highly reputable domestic base and international network.‘
‘Paul Hastings is a strong firm with technical, bright people.‘
‘Olivier Deren is extremely solid and reliable.‘
‘Sébastien Crepy is great to work with, detail-oriented, a dedicated and strong professional, but easygoing.‘
21 Centrale Partners
Meeschaert Capital Partners
- Advised CM-CIC Investissement and Omnes Capital on the €1bn sale of telecoms infrastructure services company Circet Groupe to Advent International.
- Acted for 21 Invest France on the leveraged buy-out of Skill & You by Andera Partners.
- Provided strategic and legal counsel to Equistone Partners Europe on the leveraged management buy-out of the Luxembourg-based Wallenborn Group.
Independent corporate boutique Scotto Partners remains the go-to firm for management packages. The group has an outstanding track record handling the biggest transactions in the market and is able to draw on colleagues from the tax and employment departments to advise on related legal issues arising for managers in the context of leveraged buy-outs. The group handles domestic and cross-border transactions alike. Lionel Scotto le Massese, Nicolas Menard-Durand, Claire Revol-Renié and Isabelle Cheradame are the key contacts.
- Advised Indigo Group’s management on the disposal of an Ardian stake to Mirova and Meag.
- Assisted the top managers of Sulo (formerly Plastic Omnium Environnement) on the Sulo carve-out in the form of an LBO transaction led by a consortium formed of Latour Capital and Bpifrance.
- Acted for the top managers of Saur on the €1.5bn acquisition of Saur by EQT.
White & Case LLP's private equity team was strengthened by the arrival of former Orrick Rambaud Martel practitioners Saam Golshani, Alexis Hojabr, Guillaume Vitrich and counsel Julien Bensaid in December 2018, which also increased the firm's restructuring and M&A clout in Paris. Cross-border transactions are the group's mainstay, but the team is also well versed in domestic buy-outs. The ability to advise on large-cap and mid-market deals in combination with the Paris office's wider service offering, including finance, capital markets, tax, employment and real estate, make the group the adviser of choice for an ever-growing list of big private equity houses. Golshani and Vincent Morin head the practice. François Leloup, Nathalie Nègre-Eveillard and Guillaume Vallat are other key contacts. Camille Note, previously a counsel at the firm, left for InfraVia Capital Partners in October 2018.
Access Capital Partners
Boussard & Gavaudan
Crédit Agricole CIB
Oaktree Management Capital
- Advised BC Partners on the acquisition of Sistemia S.p.A. from KKR.
- Acted for IK Investment Partners as equity sponsor and Colisée Group on the acquisition of Armonea Group.
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP has longstanding presence in the market and particular strength in cross-border transactions, but is also experienced in domestic matters. The team has seen an uptick in work in the growth sector of the French market, but maintains its ability to advise on transactions across all market segments, from small-cap buy-outs to large-cap deals. Eduardo Fernandez, Christophe Garaud and Cédric Hajage are the practice heads. Gabriel Flandin, whose specialisms include private equity deals, M&A, corporate governance and joint ventures, made partner in January 2019.
CVC Capital Partners
Palamon Capital Partners
Weinberg Capital Partners
- Advised PAI Partners on the €600m acquisition of Stella.Group, the market leader in France for the production of doors, gates, shutters and enclosures, from Intermediate Capital Group.
- Acted for French frozen bakery specialist Mademoiselle Desserts on its acquisition of Pâtisserie Michel Kremer.
- Advised Latour Capital on its acquisition of Atlas for Men, making Latour Capital a majority shareholder.
Allen & Overy LLP
Weinberg Capital Partners
- Advised Weinberg Capital Partners on its acquisition (together with Groupe Philippe Ginestet) of Besson Chaussures, a subsidiary of Vivarte Group.
- Advised Eurazeo Patrimoine, the Eurazeo division dedicated to investment in real assets, and in particular to real estate, on the acquisition of Euston House, a London office building, alongside Arax Properties.
- Advised CM-CIC Investissement on its investment in Voyageurs du Monde, a French leader travel agency specialising in tailor-made trips.
‘Very robust team, able to handle efficiently, perfectly managing the time frame, any issue on a PE deal. High availability for clients, dedicated team.’
PIM and Kleboth family
Managers of Sogal
Managers of Lanvin
Managers of Questel
Managers of Shark Helmet
Founding shareholders of Bee2link
- Advising the founding shareholders of Bee2link, a software publisher for the automotive distribution business, on the 30% entry of Bridgepoint Development Capital into its capital.
- Acted for Onepoint on its fundraising with Metric Capital Partners and on its merger with Weave.
- Advised the sellers, the fund PIM Participations and the Kleboth family, as part of the takeover of the Babou family’s 95 low-price stores by B&M European Value Retail.
Hoche Société d’Avocats
- Advised Omnes Capital on the LBO of Belgian consultancy firm Intys.
- Advised Go Sport France on the sale of its activity and its website ‘Tool Fitness’.
- Acted for Canal+ and Groupe Les Echos on the acquisition of Mezzo channel.
Groupe Silvya Terrade
- Assisting the managers of Revima with its management package concerning the acquisition of the group by Ardian.
- Assisting the managers of Digit RE with its management package regarding the acquisition of the group by LFPI.
- Assisting Naf Naf’s management team on its management package regarding its acquisition by La Chapelle.
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Division
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan
- Advised Goldman Sachs Merchant banking division on the acquisition of the B&B Hotels chain from PAI Partners.
- Advised Bain Capital Private Equity on its acquisition of a majority stake in Maesa.
- Acted for Searchlight Capital on the acquisition of a 26% stake in aircraft components provider Latécoère SA.
‘Technical knowledge, availability, experience. Strong expertise and good interpersonal skills.’
Intermediate Capital Group
IPH (Industrial Parts Holding)
Argos Wityu (ex Argos Soditic)
Quilvest Private Equity
- Advised private equity fund Quilvest on the corporate aspects of the sale to Latour Capital of Sogetrel, a leading specialist of networks and communication systems.
- Advised private equity fund LBO France on the acquisition of Moustache Bikes, an electric bikes manufacturer, along with managers and Arkea Capital, from Initiative & Finance and founders with regard to the corporate, structuring and financial aspects of a €150m LBO transaction.
- Acted for private equity fund Meeschaert Capital Partners on the acquisition of 2BR Mobilité.
Five Arrows Private Equity
IK Investment Partners
Atlas For Men
- Assisted Montefiore Investment with the acquisition of Gandi.net.
- Advised Siparex ETI on signing an acquisition agreement with India’s Sintex Group for the buyout of its European subsidiary Sintex NP, with the support of its management team.
- Advised Cobepa and its portfolio company Socotec, an inspection and certification specialist in construction and infrastructure, on the acquisition of Vidaris, an American company specialising in the same field.
Impax Asset Management
Société Générale Insurance
TVM Capital Life Science
- Advising 3i on the acquisition of Ionisos group from investment fund Ardian.
- Acted for AXA Infrastructure Equity and Crédit Agricole Assurances on exercising their right of first offer to acquire from DIF an additional 9.22% of share capital and voting rights of Atlandes (A63 motorway).
- Assisted Société Générale Insurance with its €85m acquisition of InfraVia Capital’s stake in Régaz – Bordeaux.
‘The M&A team is very good as well as the other teams involved. Professional and efficient. I have worked with Julien Aucomte (M&A partner) on several occasions. High level of expertise. Always calm and focused. Great business judgement. Capacity to develop innovative/pragmatic solutions. Key asset in negotiations. I definitely recommend Julien.’
Groupe La Maison Bleue
Infravia Capital Partners
The Klesch Group
Caisse des dépôts et consignations
I Squared Capital
- Advised Spirax-Sarco Engineering on the acquisition of the entire share capital of the French group of thermal energy solutions Thermocoax from Chequers Capital, TCR Capital and other minority shareholders.
- Assisted Thales with the acquisition of Ercom and Suneris from BPI France, Ineo, Tempocap, Trocadero, Madère and the unwinding of the existing management package in the context of an LBO exit.
- Advised, in the context of a build-up following the LBO by Raise Investissement, Artémis Courtage, a company specialising in financing for individuals, businesses and professionals, on the acquisition of FLG Finance.
‘Great team. Combines complementary talents. Dedicated and very reactive. François Hellot is beyond the pure legal know-how, very business oriented which is extremely valuable in LBO.’
HGH Infrared Systems
- Advised Caravelle, a French investment company, on its acquisition of Luneau Technology Group, a specialist in eye care professional products.
- Acted for infrared technology company HGH Infrared Systems on its exclusive negotiations with US-based private equity company The Carlyle Group for the acquisition of a majority stake in HGH alongside the management team.
- Assisted Certares, a private equity firm focusing on the travel and tourism industries, with its investment in Marietton group, a leading tour operator and travel agent in France.
Propel Equity Partners
OFI asset management
- Advised Brookfield on the acquisition of a controlling interest in a group of companies comprising three broad business operations, being a French student housing business, a hotel apartment operator business and a construction and development business.
- Acted for Propel Equity Partners on the sale of leading toy manufacturing group Juratoys to French fund Argos Wityu.
- Advised private equity firm Bpifrance Investissement on the acquisition with Latour Capital funds of Plastic Omnium Environnement.
‘Good knowledge and experience on LBO management packages.’
GDE Groupe Ecore
- Assisting with renegotiating the management package of Ecore Group in the context of a high-yield refinancing of €250m.
- Advised the shareholders and the management of the AD Education network in lights of the entry of PE funds Cathay Capital Private Equity and Bpifrance as minority shareholders.
- Alongside Scotto & Associés, advised Siaci Saint-Honoré’s management on setting up a management package.