Billionaire Duo Buys Chemicals Maker for $2.1 Billion

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Billionaire duo Nicolas Berggruen and Martin E. Franklin agreed to buy Alent Plc for about 1.35 billion pounds ($2.1 billion) to expand the electronic-chemicals part of their investment firm serving makers of mobile phones and cars.

Alent investors will get 503 pence a share, either in cash or partly in shares of the billionaires’ chemical investment vehicle Platform Specialty Products Corp, Platform said in a statement Monday.

The bid is 49 percent more than Alent’s July 10 close. The U.K. company rose 43 percent to 484 pence at 3:35 p.m. in London. Platform was up 1.3 percent at $25.47 in New York.

The takeover of Alent was a deal waiting to happen after activist shareholder Cevian Capital pushed for its carve-out from Cookson Group Plc in 2012, creating a niche business at a time of consolidation in the industry. Platform is budgeting for annual pretax cost savings of at least $50 million as it integrates the business with MacDermid Inc., which it purchased in 2013 for $1.8 billion.

“It’s a full price, Platform were keen,” Alent Chief Executive Officer Andrew Heath, who joined five months ago from Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, said in a phone interview.

Platform is betting on demand for increasingly compact technology to fit in mobile phones and the addition of more electronics such as sensors in cars. It’s paying 13.9 times Alent’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization on an enterprise value basis. That’s the highest multiple ever paid for a U.K. specialty chemical company, Heath said.

Consolidation

The purchase is the latest deal in the electronic-chemical industry, following Merck KGaA’s purchase of AZ Electronic Materials in 2013 for $2.8 billion and Entegris Inc.’s takeover of ATMI Inc. for $952 million. Dow Chemical Co. is also a competitor through its Shipley unit. Merck paid about 12.5 times Ebitda for AZ.

The market for electronics for cars, including assembly materials and chips, is growing at double the pace of the wider automotive industry, Heath said. Platform earlier this year agreed to acquire the electronic chemical and photomasks businesses of OM Group for $365 million as it looks to build economies of scale and broaden its offerings.

Cevian Capital, which invested in Alent prior to its demerger, agreed to tender its 21.9 percent stake. Alent was advised by Rothschild and UBS AG, while Credit Suisse Group AG advised Platform.

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