3i sells Precise to Phoenix Equity Partners

15 Dec 2006

3i, a global leader in private equity and venture capital, has sold Precise Media Group (“Precise”), one of the UK’s leading media monitoring agencies, to Phoenix Equity Partners and Management.  The transaction value is £42m.  3i’s proceeds of £24m represent a 101% IRR and a 3.2x money multiple.

In backing the BIMBO of Precise (then KBBI) in March 2005, 3i introduced an experienced private equity chairman, Peter Harkness, FD Peter Low, and Operations Director Charles Hilliard to work alongside existing Managing Director Keir Fawcus. The team was recently augmented by the appointment of IT Director Tony Prime.  The company has enjoyed top-line growth of over 20% and more than doubled profitability.  This has been achieved by winning a significant number of high profile customers, including 15 FTSE 100 companies and a number of major Government contracts, successfully integrating five specialist agencies, improving efficiency, increasing the number of media sources, and developing new services such as media evaluation.

Justin Maltz, 3i Investment Director, commented: “Precise has been transformed into the fastest-growing major media monitoring agency in the UK.  We backed a strong management team and are proud of what they have achieved in a short period.  The company has built a strong platform from which to grow further and we wish the management team every success.”

Peter Harkness, Precise Chairman, commented: “3i has been a strong partner over the last 18 months and has been integral to the success achieved so far.  Precise has the strongest and most experienced executive management team in UK media monitoring and I believe they will continue to develop the Precise group's dominance of monitoring and evaluation.”

Peter Low and Keir Fawcus, Precise commented: ”We have been impressed with Phoenix and their enthusiasm to work with us and look forward to their supporting the next stage of development and growth.”

Kevin Keck, Phoenix Equity Partners, said: “Peter Low and the management team of Precise have done an outstanding job in building a truly impressive group and we are very excited about the opportunity to work in partnership with them over the coming years.”

Precise operates under the brand names of Precise Media, EDS Media, EPCA, Clipability and Media Report and provides its customers with high-speed media monitoring, editorial and evaluation services from over 10,000 UK and international print and online media sources.  Clients include major financial institutions, listed and non-listed companies in all sectors of the economy, including over 75% of the FTSE 100, PR consultancies, Government and celebrities.  The business was founded in 1996 by Martin Knight and Chris Banner, former managers at the Financial Times.

3i was advised by Malcolm Wren, Gillian Asquith and Olivier Wolf of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, together with Greg Leyshon and Rob Wood of Osborne Clarke.  Phoenix and Management were advised on the transaction by KPMG Corporate Finance.

Peter Harkness has previously worked with 3i at WHY Publications, publisher of regional advertising magazines, and Butler Group, one of Europe’s leading providers of research to the IT sector where he led successful exits with excellent returns for management and 3i. 

About 3i

3i is a world leader in private equity and venture capital.  We focus on buyouts, growth capital and venture capital and invest across Europe, in 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.

About 3i buyouts 
3i Buyouts is a leader in the European mid-market. We lead mid-market buyouts of up to around €1bn enterprise value using insight from our local knowledge, international connections, and our sector teams.  3i Buyouts invests in all sectors, with a particular focus on media, healthcare and business support services.

Some recent transactions include: in Benelux: ABX (freight forwarding), Aviapartner (ground handling), Daalderop (heating equipment), Refresco (fruit juice manufacturer) and UTT (tank container operators).  In the UK: Chorion (brand management), Hobbs (women's fashion retailer); Interflora (floral services), Westminster Healthcare and Care Principles (care services).  In Germany: Betapharm (pharmaceuticals) and Norma (connectors and clamps).  In France: Keolis (inter-urban transport) and Laboratoires Vendôme (cosmetic/toiletry products).  In Spain: Gamesa Energía y Servicios (wind farm construction and maintenance).  In Italy: Giochi Preziosi (toy manufacture and distribution).  In the Nordic region: Gant (branded retail) and Carema (care services).  Internationally: Travelex (foreign exchange services), YBR Group (telephone directories) and Marken (specialist transportation services).