The acquisition of Vacanceselect by PAI Partners-backed European Camping Group (ECG) doubles the company’s revenues and EBITDA, PAI partner Bertrand Monier and ECG president Alain Calmé told PE Hub Europe in an exclusive interview.
The deal has an enterprise value of €1 billion, according to sources close to the matter.
ECG, an Aix-en-Provence-based European tour operator that specialises in the mobile home holiday market, was acquired by PAI Partners in September 2021. Alkmaar-headquartered Vacanceselect is a Dutch campsite and mobile-home operator that had been owned by funds advised by Permira since 2015. PAI and agreed to buy the firm in July and completed the deal today.
“The industry started as a very fragmented one,” said Monier. “Private equity has been an enabler for management teams, basically to consolidate regional champions and now European champions.”
Calmé echoed Monier, adding that an increase in consumer adoption, based initially on the growing comfort level of the equipment, has positively affected the sector’s growth. “We’re far away from the tents and caravans – what we call mobile homes today are really nice tiny houses with full comfort in there, including aircon,” said Calmé.
Similarly, the holiday parks themselves are better equipped, according to Calmé. “They now have water parks with slides, sports facilities – it’s better value for money.”
These changes strengthened Paris-based PAI Partner’s conviction with ECG, and now Vacanceselect. “When we underwrite, we need to check market fundamentals and be sure we are comfortable with long-term trends,” Monier explained. “We also need to confirm the robustness of the platform and that the management team is in full control. We acquired ECG only 18 months ago, and all these requirements have been met. That’s why we’re comfortable making this big step.”
Calmé describes that step as “transformational”, as the acquisition doubles the company’s revenues and EBITDA. “We will operate in 440 destinations in Europe,” he said. “That’s the first time an outdoor accommodation player is reaching that kind of scale.”
With the addition of Vacanceselect, ECG will still only have an 11-12 percent market share in France, according to Bertrand, and that figure is even lower on a European basis. “There’s clearly some room for consolidation in the European scale.”
First item on the to-do list for ECG and Vacanceselect is to complete a successful integration, according to Calmé, “geared towards increasing the top line, maintaining excellence and growth”.
PAI Partners is “eager” for ECG to keep searching for acquisition targets, across Europe, said Calmé. In addition to the more usual destination countries such as Italy and Spain, ECG is eyeing Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, where the outdoor accommodation market is younger.
PAI Partners is familiar with the outdoor accommodation niche; in 2020 the firm exited Roompot Group, a provider of holiday parks in Western Europe, to KKR and in 2019, PAI sold B&B Hotels to Goldman Sachs. The firm has been tracking the segment for roughly a decade, getting to know the trends around it.
These include consumers’ aspiration to be closer to nature, a trend accelerated by covid, and consciousness around the carbon footprint of tourism. ECG has collected concrete data on the latter.
“We’ve received the first benchmarks between sectors,” said Calmé. “We were surprised to learn that a vacation in an outdoor accommodation resort emits on average four times less CO2 than a stay of the same length in a hotel, for example.”
Editor’s note: This article has been amended to reflect that PAI bought ECG in September 2021, not September 2015.