May 24, 2012
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Duty-free shopping group Global Blue sells for $1.3 billion

May 24, 2012

LONDON - Silver Lake and Partners Group have agreed to buy Swiss-based tax-free shopping business Global Blue for 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) from rival Equistone.

Global Blue

The two investors beat a handful of other buyout groups including BC Partners, EQT and TH Lee to buy the fast-growing business.

Headquartered in Nyon, Switzerland, Global Blue's tax-free shopping business helps overseas travellers in Europe reclaim sales tax on their shopping and offers its service through more than 270,000 retail locations worldwide.

Equistone, formerly Barclays Private Equity, bought Global Blue in 2007 in a deal valuing the business at 360 million euros. Since then, Global Blue revenues have doubled, while earnings before interest, tax amortisation and depreciation (EBITDA) nearly tripled to 97 million euros.

Global Blue has achieved its growth through targeting travellers from emerging markets, in particular Russia and China. The company handled some 20 million tax transactions in the year to end March.

The company attracted the interest of American Express during the process, people familiar with the process said, but the group did not bid in the final stages, one added.

Some of the largest merger and acquisition deals done in Europe this year have involved businesses changing hands between private equity groups.

CVC acquired Swedish tools company Ahlsell from Cinven and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, and Bain agreed to buy electrical installations group Bravida from Triton.

And a field of largely private equity groups is chasing Europe's largest frozen foods busines Iglo Group.

JPMorgan and Evercore advised Equistone on the sale.

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