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Actis sells 9% stake in Alexander Forbes via JoBurg float

25 Jul 2014

old-cash-register-1152031-mEmerging-market private equity firm Actis has exited most of its stake in South African financial services company Alexander Forbes.

Actis has sold its nine per cent stake, leaving it with four per cent, following an oversubscribed offer of Alexander Forbes through the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), which raised $353m last week.

Professional services firm March & McLennan Companies subsidiary Mercer Africa bought a 14.9 per cent stake through the listing and plans to buy a further 19.1 per cent.

This will see Actis and other backers such as private equity firm Ethos, who collectively hold 54 per cent, make a full exit.

Mercer said it has taken on the major shareholding to broaden its exposure in sub-Saharan African markets.

Actis led a $1.2bn take private buyout of Alexander Forbes in 2007. It was one of the largest and most complex leveraged buyouts ever executed in Africa.

Since then, the firm said it has transformed the business from a corporate governance perspective, for example overcoming reputation issues by hiring a new senior management team.

Actis said it also expanded AF’s EBITDA margins by disposing of non-core business units and driving cost efficiencies.

Partner Natalie Kolbe said: “We are extremely proud of our work transforming the business. Alongside the management team and other shareholders, we have achieved a tremendous shift in the business, one that epitomises our investment philosophy of our capital being more than solely financial.

“The strong interest we have received, in one of the largest listings in sub-Saharan Africa ever, signals significant appetite from both African and international institutional investors.”

It is not exactly the outcome that Actis was for, however, with head of Africa John van Wyk previously stating he would prefer an outright sale of its interest in Alexander Forbes, to floating the South African pension fund manager.

In February this year Actis bought a 36 per cent equity interest in AutoXpress, East Africa’s largest tyre wholesaler and retailer.

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