Permira buys stake in Gala, valuing company at £1.89 billion

Gala announces that funds advised by Permira, one of Europe’s leading private equity firms, are to buy an equity stake in the bingo and casino company in a deal which values the group at £1.89 billion. Under the terms of the transaction, funds advised by Permira will invest approximately £200 million to become a joint and equal investor in Gala alongside current owners Candover and Cinven.

A refinancing of the company's debt has also been undertaken as part of the transaction and has been arranged and underwritten by Lehman Brothers, Royal Bank of Scotland, together with Intermediate Capital Group plc.

John Kelly and Neil Goulden, respectively Gala’s Chairman and Chief Executive, and their senior management team will stay in their roles.

Gala Group is one of the UK’s largest gaming companies operating 30 casinos and 166 bingo clubs. Since it was sold by Bass in December 1997, Gala has increased EBITDA (before exceptional items) from £36 million to £145.8 million in 2004. Over the same period, it invested £220 million in capital expenditure to enhance facilities for customers. Candover and Cinven bought Gala in February 2003 in a deal which valued the group at £1.24 billion.

John Kelly, Chairman of Gala Group, said:

“The backing of Cinven, Candover and Permira - three of the biggest buy-out firms in Europe - gives us even more financial firepower and flexibility. Gala is in the very best position to grow and exploit the opportunities arising from a more deregulated gaming environment.”

Neil Goulden, Chief Executive of Gala Group, said:

“Gala is again at the leading edge of providing further security for its shareholders, its customers and its employees through this innovative and exciting restructuring of its ownership.”

In a joint statement, Marek Gumienny, Managing Director of Candover, and Peter Catterall, Partner of Cinven, said:

"In the two years since we acquired Gala, the company's organic growth track record, robust cashflows and further expansion into the casino market have delivered strong investment performance. This transaction, and a previous refinancing, have allowed us to return more than our initial combined investment to our investors whilst retaining a majority stake in the business."

"We welcome Permira as a co-investor in what continues to be an exciting opportunity. Gala's management team has a very impressive track record of creating value and together Cinven, Candover and Permira will ensure that they have continued access to the necessary financial resources to take this business forward."

Martin Clarke, Partner of Permira, said:

"We have been admirers of the Gala business for many years and approached Candover and Cinven because we have long believed that the prospects for its business are strong. Gala has proved itself time and time again, through impressive earnings growth and its ability to generate cash. We are delighted to invest in such a top quality company led by one of the best management teams in the sector. The gaming and betting industry in the UK is likely to undergo considerable change over the next few years and we look forward to working with Cinven and Candover to help Gala exploit the opportunities which will become available.”

Gala Group was advised by Close Brothers. Cinven and Candover were advised by Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank and UBS. Permira was advised by Lehmans and Global Leisure Partners.