In 1997, via a joint venture with Elior (Premier Marché: ELR/FP), one of France's leading concession and contract caterers, we invested €427m in a complex leveraged buyout to create Eliance, a new company that immediately became France's leading concession catering company.
The transaction involved buying out Elitair, Elior's existing contract catering business, the acquisition of HRC, the No. 1 French player in concession catering, and their subsequent merger to create Eliance.
Already highly leveraged, Elior alone was unable to acquire HRC but by partnering with us in a joint venture investment they were able to raise the necessary debt finance for the acquisition. Post acquisition, the company rolled out an aggressive consolidation and growth strategy making a series of acquisitions in Spain, Mexico, UK , Netherlands and Italy. By 2000, Elior had become, by sales, Europe's third largest contracted food services business and the decision was taken to realise its value through flotation.
In March 2000, Elior floated on the Paris bourse, valuing the business at over €1.1bn, followed in 2001 by a secondary offering designed to restructure capital for further expansion and acquisitions. Confident in the potential of the group, we remained an investor throughout both fundraising and still retain a shareholding in the business today.