Apollo in reported talks over Man Utd stake; CapMan sees transport opportunities after early Norled exit

Earth Capital merges four bioenergy firms into Sustainable Energy Holdings.

Morning Eurohubsters, it’s Craig McGlashan here with the Dealflow.

I wrote last week about the growing number of private equity firms gaining exposure to European football and now it looks like there could be even more. After Elon Musk’s joke Twitter announcement that he was going to buy Manchester United, there are some serious reports of private equity interest in the club.

Minority stake. United owners the Glazer family are in exclusive talks with New York’s Apollo Global Management to buy a minority stake in the club, the Daily Mail reported on Wednesday night.

It would be the latest in a string of private equity interest – particularly from the US – in European football. You can get up to speed on the latest developments in that area via this summary I wrote last week.

There has been plenty of speculation in recent weeks that the Glazer family might sell the club. United’s share price has risen from around $11 at the start of August to $13.67 at yesterday’s close. The full effect of the Apollo report is yet to be seen as the club trades on the Nasdaq in the US.

The Glazer family was never popular with fans after it saddled Manchester United with debt while taking it over in 2003. The criticism was muted with the team still performing on the pitch and picking up trophies, but the club has now gone five years without any silverware – pushing fan protests to new levels.

Early exit. Fresh off the presses on PE Hub Europe this morning is Nina Lindholm’s fascinating interview with CapMan managing partner Ville Poukka about the firm’s exit from Norled, a Norwegian marine transportation company.

CapMan sees further opportunities in the transportation infrastructure sector, despite it exiting one of its investments in the industry a little earlier than originally planned, managing partner Poukka told Nina.

CapMan and CBRE Investment Management each acquired a 50 percent stake in Norled in 2019. In early August, CapMan announced its exit from Norled, with New York-based CBRE IM taking full control of the company. The exit was the first from the CapMan Nordic Infrastructure I fund.

“The ownership period was slightly shorter than we expected, as many things happened at a faster pace than we thought,” said Poukka.

Norled is a marine transportation company based in Stavanger, Norway, with a fleet of 41 ferries and 30 express boats. Norled has invested capital in new types of vessels and technology, including hybrid and battery-driven vessels, and a hydrogen-electric ferry.

During its three-year ownership, the team at Helsinki-based CapMan had their “hands full”, according to Poukka. Working with a transportation company during a global pandemic involved challenges. “It definitely was a dynamic work environment,” Poukka added.

You can read the full interview here.

Energy mix. We’re always keen to hear about the latest developments in the battle against climate change, so we were super interested to hear about Earth Capital merging four of its UK portfolio firms to form Sustainable Energy Holdings (SEHL). The merged firms are Eccleshall Biomass (based in Eccleshall), Limelight Energy (based in County Durham) and two firms based on the Isle of Wight, Black Dog Biogas and Bright Light Energy. All four firms are low-carbon bioenergy generation assets.

SEHL will have a single dedicated management team and will be headquartered in Eccleshall. The combination of facilities will generate 3.89MW of base load renewable energy, enough to power 9,000 homes. Earth Capital that higher energy prices and a stronger focus on domestically produced, renewable, baseload energy will make bioenergy output increasingly important in a volatile energy market dominated by wind and solar energy.

“The establishment of this platform demonstrates how growth equity can find and finance appealing renewable energy solutions while also delivering a range of benefits to local and national stakeholders,” said Avent Bezuidenhoudt, head of investment and director of Earth Capital.

Discovery in the UK. Clearlake Capital-backed Discovery Education has strengthened its UK presence by picking up DoodleLearning, a firm based in Bath.

DoodleLearning creates personalised learning experiences for students via four products supporting learning in maths and the English language. Its products have been used by over one million children in the UK and around the world. DoodleLearning complements Discovery Education’s digital services including the K-12 platform, Mystery Science, STEM Connect, and the Maths, Science, and Social Studies Techbooks.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Discovery Education is a worldwide educational platform. DoodleLearning is Discovery Education’s fourth acquisition since 2019, following the purchase of Mystery Science in October 2020, Spiral in July 2020 and Inspyro in August 2019.

“Discovery Education is dedicated to creating a best-in-class edtech ecosystem that supports our mission to prepare today’s students for future success,” said Discovery Education CEO Scott Kinney.

That’s it from me – I’ll be back tomorrow to take you into the weekend.