3i-backed Smart and Cook sold to AXA

26 Apr 2007

3i today announces that it has sold its stake in Smart & Cook, one of the UK’s leading independent commercial brokers, as part of the sale of the company to AXA UK plc.   

3i first invested in Smart & Cook in March 2004 and provided further financial support to fund Smart & Cook’s acquisition plan.  In addition to providing financial support, 3i also introduced David Burnett as Chairman and Adrian Burn as Non Executive Director.  David is a Partner at TT International, the boutique hedge fund manager, and prior to this held a number of positions at SBC Warburg, latterly as a Managing Director in London.  Adrian was previously Managing Partner at Binder Hamlyn and a Partner at Arthur Andersen.  The successful sale of Smart & Cook sees 3i make in excess of a 3x return on its investment in the company.

Angela Lane, Partner 3i Growth Capital, commented: “Through the successful acquisition of 14 brokers during the past three years, Smart & Cook, led by an outstanding management team, has cemented its position as the leading consolidator in the regional broking market.  The business is strategically attractive to AXA, making this the right solution for developing the business further.” 

Paul Meehan, Smart & Cook Chief Executive, said: “3i has been a fantastic partner, supporting us in our ambition of becoming the leading regional commercial broker in the UK.  I am confident that this move will be beneficial for our people, our clients and our other stakeholders. It is important that we continue to trade independently and AXA will run this business at arms length, leaving market issues to Stuart, Chris and me. It delivers a secure and exciting future for the Group”.

Smart & Cook is based in Harrogate with a network of offices primarily in the North of England and Scotland.  The company targets the SME market, which is very attractive to the insurers as it is less cyclical than many insurance lines and there is less impact from the direct models now seen in the personal insurance business market. 

About 3i

3i is a world leader in private equity and venture capital.  We focus on Buyouts, Growth Capital, Venture Capital and Infrastructure and invest across Europe, the United States and Asia.  Our competitive advantage comes from our international network and the strength and breadth of our relationships in business.  These underpin the value that we deliver to our portfolio and to our shareholders.

3i Growth Capital is the world’s largest growth capital fund investing over €1bn every year in businesses across Europe, Asia and the US.  We provide financial and strategic support to established businesses with the potential for outstanding value growth.  We invest between €10m - €150m to help businesses achieve their growth ambitions, restructure shareholdings, release equity or change the balance of equity to debt.  Once we have invested, we are committed to working in partnership with majority shareholders.

Recent investments include Electrawinds, Benelux, €30m; ACR, Singapore, €150m; NECL, India, €35m; Giraffe, UK, €15m; GAPL, India, €38m; Empruntis.com, France, €32m; Sten, Spain, €100m and HTC, Sweden, €11m.  Recent realisations include Poliris, France, €350m; Alimak Hek, Sweden, €238m; Salamander Energy, UK, €307m; CH4 Energy, UK, €224m; Magix, Germany, €207m; Williams Lea, UK, €165m; Gant, Sweden, €241m; Republic, UK, €150m and Petrofac, UK, €1.1bn. 

For further information please contact:

Kathryn van der Kroft
email. kathryn.vanderkroft@3i.com
tel.  +44 207 975 3021