3i keen to sell assets to yield-hungry investors

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Private equity firm 3i Group said strong market valuations had cleared the way for further disposals after it raised £245m from sales of investments in the final quarter of last year.

The owner of luxury lingerie firm Agent Provocateur and women’s lingerie chain Hobbs said its sale of German automotive supplier Hilite and further sales of stakes in several listed US investments had brought its total to £569m in the nine months to December 31.

“There’s an awful lot of capital out there that’s desperate to get decent yields and we’re benefiting from that on the realisation side,” group dinance director Julia Wilson said.

The group has hired Goldman Sachs to sell Agent Provocateur, while the auction for Dutch soft drinks bottler Refresco Gerber is expected to complete in less than a month.

Sources said the business has attracted bids from three private equity funds, valuing it at around 1.5bn euros.

3i said it had also invested £275m over the period, its financial third quarter, including £173m in German jewellery chain Christ.

Diluted net asset value per share rose 5 per cent to 375 pence, helped by earnings growth of 15 per cent among its private equity investments.

Yorkshire investments include Hull-based MKM Building Supplies, Sheffield-based Go Outdoors and Rotherham-based AESSEAL, one of its longest-held stakes.

A strong dollar helped forex gains to £16m, helping offset losses in the first half of the year.

Since the end of the third quarter 3i has refinanced star investment Action, a Dutch discount chain, which provided the London-based group with a £102m windfall in January.

Last week, its infrastructure arm sold its stake in the Eversholt Rail Group to Asian billionaire Li Ka-shing’s CKI group.