3i sells stake in Vibtech to Sercel

29 Sep 2006

3i, Europe's leading private equity and venture capital company, today announced the sale of its minority stake in Vibration Technology Limited ("Vibtech"), a developer of wireless solutions for the oil, gas and mineral exploration sector, to Sercel, a division of Compagnie General de Geophysique ("GGY").  3i's proceeds from the sale of £6m represent an IRR of 17% and a money multiple of 1.8x.

Since its initial investment in 1998, 3i has invested a total of £3m in Vibtech.  Will Clark, 3i Director, commented: "During our investment, Vibtech has successfully developed a range of cable free land seismic systems, the most exciting being the recently launched 'Unite' system.  The company has built a strong platform from which to grow further and this move will provide Vibtech with access to Sercel's international network."  

Doug Gibson, CEO Vibtech, commented: "We are very flattered that Sercel, the undisputed market leader in seismic instrumentation saw fit to buy into our vision.  We believe this acquisition gives Vibtech and its staff a very bright future under its new ownership.  The investment by 3i in Vibtech from a very early stage in the company's development was pivotal in enabling us to build this successful business."

Based in Larbert, Scotland, Vibtech, founded in 1996, has pioneered the use of advanced wireless technologies for seismic recording.  This technology has now reached a new stage with the recent release of the Unite system and field trials of this new generation equipment have attracted interest from both oil companies and seismic contractors.  It is expected that the combination of Sercel expertise in seismic recording and new skills arising from Vibtech's development group will help expand the capabilities of Sercel's portfolio of products to address industry requirements in all situations.

Unite is a unique versatile product capable of recording and transmitting data in a stand alone or real time mode, enabling quality control while recording and capable of handling thousands of channels.  Use of new transmission technologies also reduces limitations inherent to radio frequencies.

Simmons & Company and Shepherd & Wedderburn advised the vendors, which included Prospect Investments and Scottish Enterprise, on the sale.  3i was advised by Addleshaw Goddard LLP. 

Notes to editors

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 theUnited States and in 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 has funded 36% of all European oil & gas private equity deals between 2003 and 2005 and manages an investment portfolio of 18 companies in the exploration and production (E&P) and service sectors.

The current oil & gas portfolio includes Vetco International (ABB's former upstream oil and gas business); EDP, an oilfield development project manager; Salamander Energy, an E&P company focused on South East Asiaand Finnish oil spill response company Lamor Corporation.  Previous investments include Petrofac, the international oil and gas facilities service provider, which floated in October 2005; Revus Energy, the independent Norwegian upstream company, which floated in June 2005; Epcon Offshore, a designer and manufacturer of water treatment systems for the oil and gas industry and Specialised Petroleum Services Group, a leading provider of wellbore clean-up products and services for the oil and gas industry.

About Vibtech

Vibtech was founded in 1996 by John Flavell Smith and Bill Park, both with nearly thirty years of experience in the seismic industry, working for major contractors such as Schlumberger, CGG and Digicon.  They saw the need to make the exploration for hydrocarbons & minerals onshore and in the surf zone more straightforward.  They believed that a broadband cellular radio network would be able to handle the massive data volumes acquired during a seismic survey and Vibtech was formed to develop this concept.  Visit the company's website http://www.vibtech.co.uk/