United Kingdom

US private equity giant joins swoop for struggling car park firm NCP

Car parking firm NCP has been targeted with a private equity-backed bid after struggling through the pandemic.

American giant Reef, backed by private equity investors Bain Capital, has launched an attack to take control of NCP, which has 500 UK sites.

It came as Blackstone revealed it was in the final stages of agreeing its £1.2billion takeover of housing group St Modwen. 

Target: Car parking firm NCP, which was struggling before the pandemic struck, has been hammered by a collapse in traffic at its prime airport and city centre locations

The two are the latest to be hit by buyout firms, who are sweeping Britain with debt-fuelled takeovers.

Bain owns a number of UK companies including car insurer Esure. NCP, which was struggling before the pandemic, has been hammered by a collapse in traffic at airports and city centres.

If Reef and Bain succeed in their 100 per cent takeover of NCP, which is owned by Japan’s Park24, some city centre car parks could be turned into facilities for booming food delivery companies.

A source close to Reef said it would look to increase sales by ‘diversifying revenue streams’. It was not clear what impact this would have on the jobs of NCP’s 1,000 employees. 

NCP lost more than £20million in the two years before the pandemic, the most recent accounts available show. 

Last year it furloughed staff, cut wages and pulled in £100million of loans from shareholders to survive.

The Reef bid will attempt to gatecrash a complex restructuring with landlords, which is being put to a vote this week. Landlords are furious at being asked to write off substantial arrears.

A City source said Reef and Bain were offering landlords a ‘materially better offer than the current plan’. Some will also get full repayment of arrears.

Reef, which is backed by Softbank and Oaktree, aims to reimagine car parks, taking advantage of the huge demand for city-centre warehouses. Its website boasts of transforming sites into distribution hubs used by the likes of DHL and Amazon.

It is also involved in providing electric charging points.

NCP said: ‘The restructuring committee will give full consideration to all options available and is applying to court to extend the restructuring plan voting process to 23 June.’ Bain Capital declined to comment.

Also yesterday, housing developer St Modwen said it was close to reaching a £1.2billion agreement to sell the business to US private equity giant Blackstone, which also owns Sage Housing and Butlins owner Bourne Leisure in the UK.

This year has been the biggest year for private equity deals since the financial crisis, with more than 120 firms targeted.

Last week three British firms – Sanne Group, Sigma Capital Group and Proactis – were set to fall into the hands of private equity, in deals worth almost £1.7billion. 

This was on top of the 123 companies, worth £36billion, which have been sold to private equity in the high-risk ‘pandemic plundering’ spree.

There are also more than a dozen deals in the pipeline worth in excess of £15billion.

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