Asset sale could derail Charterhouse secondaries process

Charterhouse Capital Partners' exit of a prized asset in its 2009-vintage fund means its potential secondaries process on the vehicle is 'less likely' to go ahead.

Charterhouse Capital Partners‘ sale of one of the marquee assets in its 2009-vintage fund has cast a shadow over the proposed GP-led secondaries process on the vehicle.

The UK buyout firm has entered exclusive talks to sell Comexposium, the world’s third-biggest organiser of B2B and B2C exhibitions, to French banking giant Crédit Agricole Assurances, according to a statement. It is understood the deal has been signed.

Charterhouse had been talking to investors in October about a secondaries deal that would have given extra time and capital to the five remaining assets in the fund, Secondaries Investor reported in October. The firm, which was working with advisor Evercore for on the process, believed the deal could be worth as much as €2 billion including follow-on capital.

The firm decided it could obtain a better price by selling the asset rather than via a secondaries process, according to a source familiar with the matter. The secondaries process is now “less likely to happen” due to the exit, although the firm will continue to contemplate all options including the secondaries market, the source added.

Charterhouse acquired a 50.1 percent stake in Comexposium in 2015 using its €4 billion Charterhouse Capital Partners IX fund. The exhibition organiser manages and owns a portfolio of around 130 exhibitions across 11 industries and was created in 2008 through the merger of the trade show activities of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris-Ile-de-France, and Unibail.

The sale to Crédit Agricole represents a full exit and will deliver a 2.4x multiple of invested capital and a 27 percent internal rate of return for Charterhouse, according to a source familiar with the deal.

“It’s a sign the manager did the right thing,” said a limited partner in CCP IX, adding that Comexposium was one of the fund’s most attractive assets.

Charterhouse had said it would maximise the value of the portfolio for its LPs and exiting Comexposium outside a secondaries process when the firm could have continued to manage it via a continuation fund shows the firm performed best practice, the LP added.

Other assets in CCP IX include nuclear measurement firm Mirion Technologies and corporate learning provider Skillsoft.

Charterhouse and Evercore declined to comment on the secondaries process.