In September 1997 Cinven purchased a group of non-core businesses from Hillsdown Holdings for €88 million.
Based in the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand, these businesses included food preparation and distribution, waste disposal, printing and packaging. On acquisition the companies were renamed Argent.
These disparate businesses offered Cinven a range of opportunities. The first strategy phase saw cash realised through disposal of some of the businesses and some of the facilities of the retained companies. A second phase of strategy involved investing in the retained businesses, making bolt-on acquisitions to restructure Argent into a more focused business with the option to make piecemeal sales of some operations to strategic buyers. After a partial disposal programme in 2001, Cinven focused on a core group of strong remaining businesses. For example, Argent invested some €25 million in creating Britain’s first large-scale bio-diesel plant in Motherwell, Scotland.
The early disposal programme produced approximately €42 million. By the end of 2001 Argent’s original debt had been repaid and Cinven had received distributions exceeding its original investment. In 2009, the bio-diesel business was successfully sold, followed by the balance of the group in early 2010. Cinven achieved a 2.5x money multiple on its original investment.