Black­stone to ac­quire NEC group for £800m

Daily Express - - CITY & BUSINESS - By David Shand

BIRM­ING­HAM’S Na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre op­er­a­tor is set to be snapped up by one of the world’s big­gest prop­erty in­vestors in an £800mil­lion-plus deal.

Multi­na­tional pri­vate eq­uity gi­ant Black­stone is poised to com­plete the takeover of the Crufts dog show venue owner NEC Group af­ter see­ing off ri­val pri­vate eq­uity suit­ors.

NEC had hired Bank of Amer­ica Mer­rill Lynch to over­see an auc­tion of the busi­ness, whose other venues in­clude the city’s Gent­ing Arena and In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre.

LDC, the pri­vate eq­uity arm of Lloyds Bank­ing Group, has con­trolled it since buy­ing a ma­jor­ity share from Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil nearly four years ago in a deal valu­ing the busi­ness at about £307mil­lion.

The huge in­crease in val­u­a­tion could raise ques­tions over whether the tax­payer was short­changed when the busi­ness changed hands in 2015, although in­vest­ment has been ramped up since then to boost sales and profit.

Vis­i­tor num­bers have in­creased by three mil­lion to 7.5 mil­lion over the last three fi­nan­cial years fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of 50 new events and cap­i­tal spend­ing of £48mil­lion.

New vis­i­tor at­trac­tions in­clude the Bear Grylls Ad­ven­ture at NEC and Le­goland Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre at Arena Birm­ing­ham, while ex­hi­bi­tions hosted for the first time in­clude This Morn­ing Live and The Fit Show, as well as longstay event Di­nosaurs in the Wild.

The ad­di­tions helped NEC Group, whose are­nas have hosted the IAAF’s track and field World In­door Cham­pi­onships, Strictly Come Danc­ing and The Horse Of The Year Show, grow pre-tax earn­ings 10 per cent to £54.7mil­lion on 2.8 per cent higher sales of £162.1mil­lion in the year to March 31.

LDC said the growth re­flected its strat­egy “to broaden the range of events across the NEC cam­pus and city cen­tre venues fol­low­ing in­vest­ment in fa­cil­i­ties and use of cus­tomer data an­a­lyt­ics to max­imise new event op­por­tu­ni­ties”.

TOP DOG: The prop­erty in­vestor out­bid ri­vals for venues in­clud­ing the Crufts arena

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