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Garden Centre Group sold to Terra Firma

The Financial Times reports that Terra Firma, the private equity group run by British financier Guy Hands, has acquired The Garden Centre Group in a deal that values the green-fingered retailer at £276m.

The private equity group will finance the buyout with a mixture of debt and equity, and said it had further funds available to invest into the specialist retailer of plants and garden care products, which operates from 129 locations around England and Wales.

Terra Firma bought The Garden Centre from Lloyds, which in 2009 took possession of Britain’s largest garden centre operator by revenues after the retailer could not service its mounting net debt burden.

“The Garden Centre has enormous potential, and we see considerable opportunity to help it grow through focused, strategic investment,” Mr Hands said.

“The Garden Centre is an attractive business for Terra Firma. It already has a leading position in a fragmented market with long-term growth prospects. The Garden Centre’s portfolio of garden centres is difficult to replicate given planning restrictions and it has a strong and growing Gardening Club.”

Terra Firma declined to specify how much it paid for The Garden Centre or the retailer’s level of debt, but said that the deal valued the group at £276m.

The Garden Centre Group, previously known as Wyevale, operates under brands such as Blooms, Country Homes and Gardens, Bridgemere, Jack’s Patch and Old Barn, and had been on the market since last year.

Established in 1962 by Harry Williamson and publicly listed in 1987, the garden retailer was taken private in 2006 in a £445m buyout by a group headed by Sir Tom Hunter, the entrepreneur.

In spite of being the largest player in a UK garden market worth £5bn a year, the group’s debt burden at the time of more than £400m proved insurmountable, and it was placed in the hands of Bank of Scotland in 2008 in a debt-for-equity-swap.

Lloyds then took on its ownership as part of its purchase of Bank of Scotland’s parent HBOS in 2009.

Nicholas Marshall, The Garden Centre chief executive, said: “I am delighted that the uncertainty over the group’s ownership is now resolved. The group now has solid foundations in place from which to grow.”

Source : Mark Wembridge – Financial Times
www.ft.com/cms/s/0/30d83890-771f-11e1-baf3-00144feab49a.html#axzz1qDJvz58O

26 March 2012
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