Keensight Capital made a 5.2x return on its investment in Vision-Box, despite challenges in the airport industry from the covid-19 pandemic, managing partner Jean-Michel Beghin told PE Hub Europe.
Vision-Box is a software and hardware provider for air travel, border control and ID management. The Lisbon-based company operates passenger flow products in over 100 airports and said it has a 30 percent market share in automated border control. Paris-headquartered private equity firm Keensight exited its investment in Vision-Box to Amadeus, a multinational technology company, for an enterprise value of around €320 million at the end of January.
Several buyers were interested in the business, even in the tough exit market conditions private equity has been experiencing, thanks in part to a valuation gap between buyers and sellers. “There are always buyers that are interested in these types of fast-growing, highly profitable and innovative companies, which helps to maintain valuations at a certain level,” said Beghin. “There is no gap between the buyer and the seller, therefore no need to postpone the exit.”
Despite that tricky wider market, Keensight returned as much cash to its investors in 2023 as in previous years, said Beghin, while the return of 5.2x on Vision-Box was in line with the average exit multiple Keensight realised over the four exits the firm completed in 2023.
The covid-19 pandemic hit the airport industry hard, subsequently complicating the installation of Vision-Box’s products, although the company was still able to grow sales during the period, according to Beghin. “When we invested in 2015, the company was already the first one with a solution that worked in the seamless passenger travel area,” he said. “We expected this to grow very fast, and it did. It could have grown even more had the pandemic not hit in the middle of the ownership period.”
Passenger traffic across the European airport network in 2023 surged by 19 percent over the preceding year, bringing the total volume to just 5.3 percent below pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by Airports Council International. European airports welcomed 2.3 billion passengers in 2023, the report added. “All studies show that passenger traffic will grow very fast over the next few years, and even double in the next 10-15 years,” said Beghin. “That generates a need for airports to manage the flow of passengers more efficiently than today.”