Center Parcs heading for new ownership

HOLIDAY village operator Center Parcs UK is on course to be sold for the third time in five years, it emerged today. Private equity group Blackstone, whose previous investments have included Legoland and Universal Studios, has tabled an 80p-per-share offer valuing the company at £205.

HOLIDAY village operator Center Parcs UK is on course to be sold for the third time in five years.

Private equity group Blackstone, whose previous investments have included Legoland and Universal Studios, has tabled an 80p-per-share offer valuing the company at £205.4million.

The bid, representing a 16% premium on Wednesday's closing share price, is subject to approval by shareholders but is being recommended by the Center Parcs board for approval.

The directors said the company faced “a number of material and financial operational constraints” which made accepting the deal a prudent move.


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Blackstone said Center Parcs would provide a platform for further acquisitions and pledged that it would continue to invest in the existing sites. There was no word, however, on the make up of the Center Parcs management team.

Center Parcs UK currently operates four holiday villages - at Elveden Forest in Suffolk, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, Longleat Forest, Wilshire and Oasis Whinfell Forest, Cumbria - which last year attracted a combined total of around 1.5million visitors.

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Each village extends to around 400 acres with about 800 villas, apartments and lodges set in a forest environment and central sports and leisure facilities characterised by indoor swimming pools, spa pools and water slides.

The original Center Parcs business began in the Netherlands in 1968 before expanding into Belgium, France and the UK, where the Sherwood Forest site opened in 1987, followed by Elveden in 1989 and Longleat in 1994.

Brewing group Scottish & Newcastle acquired Center Parcs from its original owners in 1989 but in 2001 sold the business to a partnership between private equity firm DB Capital Partners and European holiday operator Pierre & Vacances.

In 2003, the UK and European businesses were split, with Pierre & Vacances taking full ownership of the European sites and MidOcean Partners (as DB Capital Partners had become) taking control of the UK business which it then sold to a consortium of investors for £285million.

The UK business was subsequently floated on the Alternative Investment Market and last year announced plans to open a fifth site, at Warren Wood, near Woburn, in Bedfordshire.

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