Blackstone to acquire NEC group for £800m
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