Apax Partners Said to Ready IPO in Drive for Permanent Funds

Apax Partners, one of Europe’s largest private-equity firms, is readying an initial public offering that would widen investors’ access to its funds, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The buyout firm plans to sell shares in a company it set up six years ago when it sold a stake to a group of sovereign wealth funds, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Shares of Permanent Capital Vehicle, now the single biggest investor in Apax funds, would be traded in London, the people said.

Apax is seeking to tap a boom in mergers that’s allowed it to sell assets including British publisher Auto Trader and return more than 4 billion euros ($4.3 billion) to investors this year. An IPO would give Apax access to permanent capital. Previously, it had to approach money managers and wealthy individuals every five or so years to contribute money to specific pools.

Credit Suisse Group AG and Jefferies Group LLC are working on the transaction, the people said. While the structure and size of the deal are still being finalized, about $250 million of shares are likely to be offered, two of the people said. Apax’s management company, which employs the dealmakers and makes investment decisions, won’t be part of the transaction.

A deal would mark the first entry of a large European private-equity firm onto the public market since the IPOs of U.S. competitors Blackstone Group and Carlyle Group. Shares of both U.S. firms have rebounded after they fell below the price at which they were first sold to the public following the financial crisis.

Officials at Credit Suisse, Jefferies and London-based Apax declined to comment on the discussions.

Executive Lock-Up

The firm’s executives and other shareholders of Permanent Capital Vehicle will be prevented from selling their stakes through a lock-up, one of the people said.

Founded in the late 1970s by Alan Patricof and Ronald Cohen, Apax made venture capital investments before moving into leveraged buyouts in 1993. Its investments have ranged from fashion label Tommy Hilfiger to yellow pages publisher Yell.

Martin Halusa, who succeded Cohen as chief executive officer in 2004, decided to stop investing in startup companies in 2007 and focus solely on buyouts after raising a record 11.2 billion-euro fund. Halusa stepped down at the beginning of last year, to be replaced by Andrew Sillitoe and Mitch Truwit, two deal-makers from within the firm.

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