Unither exit boosts Ardian’s confidence in healthcare; Time runs out on ITA Airways deal

In late August, a group led by Certares, backed by Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines, entered exclusive talks to buy a majority stake in ITA Airways.

Good morning Eurohubsters, Nina Lindholm here with Tuesday’s Dealflow.

We are kicking off November with an exit theme, as we seem to have multiple exits to discuss this morning. There is also an update on the ITA Airways deal that we reported on in early September.

Correct dose. In late October, Ardian announced the sale of its stake in Unither Pharmaceuticals to a consortium led by CEO Eric Goupil and comprising GIC, IK Partners, Keensight and Parquest. Paris-based Ardian initially acquired the contract development and manufacturing company in March 2017.

I spoke with Scarlett Omar-Broca, managing director at Ardian, about the exit, to learn what the firm focused on during the ownership period.

According to Omar-Broca, Ardian invested “a lot of additional capital” in production lines in France and the US during the hold period. “It was really a story of investing a lot of capex ahead of the demand,” she said. “As the demand was coming, but always ahead of time.”

For Ardian, Unither had a “unique” position to capitalise on the growth of its end markets, as it manufactures and develops sterile unit-doses for the pharmaceutical industry.

Amiens, France-based Unither is a European pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organisation that produces complex sterile liquid formulations for medical use. The company employs more than 1,600 people across seven manufacturing facilities in France, the US, Brazil and China, as well as an additional R&D centre in Bordeaux.

To learn what add-on acquisitions Unither made under Ardian’s wing, and how much capex the firm invested, read my full interview with Omar-Broca here.

Unbound. Next up, we have another exit, and this is a big one. Nordic Capital and Five Arrows announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement to sell The Binding Site to Thermo Fisher Scientific in a deal valued at £2.25 billion ($2.6 billion; €2.6 billion).

Nordic and Five Arrows acquired Birmingham, England-headquartered The Binding Site in 2011. The company provides diagnostic products to clinicians and laboratory professionals that aid the detection, diagnosis and management of blood cancers and immune system disorders.

The deal is expected to complete in the first half of 2023. The buyer, Thermo Fisher Scientific, is a serving science company headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts.

“During Nordic Capital’s ownership, the company has experienced strong growth and transformation, achieved by a dedicated focus on R&D investment, commercial focus and global expansion,” said Raj Shah, partner and head of healthcare at Nordic, and Jonas Agnblad, partner at Nordic and board member of The Binding Site.

Nordic Capital is a private equity firm headquartered in Stockholm. London-based Five Arrows is the European corporate private equity arm of Rothschild & Co.

To find out what kind of revenue growth The Binding Site experienced during the hold period, you can read our full report here.

Automated. Staying on the exit theme for a little longer. Munich-based Paragon Partners announced it has agreed to sell Inprotec to ICIG.

Inprotec is headquartered in Milan and works in automation and controls in the industrial process environment. The company was bought by Paragon in 2018, which has since invested more than €20 million into expanding its production facilities.

The buyer, ICIG, is an industrial group focused on mid-sized chemical and pharmaceutical businesses. It is headquartered in Luxembourg.

“The acquisition of Inprotec aligns with our long-term strategy to expand our offering in innovative, first-class contract manufacturing services,” said Achim Riemann, managing director of ICIG. “We are impressed by Inprotec’s superb reputation, strong customer relationships and demonstrated financial performance and would plan to grow the reach to further industries and geographies.”

For more details on Inprotec’s growth, read the full report here.

No deal. Finally, there is an update on the ITA Airways deal that has been brewing for a little while. At the start of September, Craig McGlashan wrote about a consortium, led by Certares and comprising Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines, which had entered exclusive talks to buy a majority stake in Italian government-owned airline ITA Airways.

The deadline for the exclusive talks has now passed. According to Reuters, Italy’s Economy Ministry said it would not renew an exclusivity period with Certares, Air France-KLM and Delta.

The consortium beat the rival bid presented by Geneva-headquartered shipping group MSC and Germany’s Lufthansa, according to Reuters.

ITA Airways was born after the Italian government took ownership of struggling flag carrier Alitalia in March 2020, partly due to concerns that it would struggle to make it through the coronavirus pandemic. It was reorganised as Italia Trasporto Aereo in October 2020.

Certares is a New York-headquartered private equity firm that invests across the travel and tourism, hospitality, business and consumer services sectors.

That’s all from me today. Have a great day and we’ll speak again on Wednesday.