Imprint shares leap on Alchemy approach

Alchemy Partners is backing an £80 million buyout bid for UK-listed recruitment group Imprint. The company’s shares jumped 20 percent on the news.

Imprint, a UK-listed recruitment business, saw its shares soar yesterday after revealing it had received an £80 million management buyout approach backed by UK firm Alchemy Partners.

The recruitment group’s shares opened up 21 percent at 198 pence after revealing Alchemy’s interest. The buyout firm has made a “preliminary approach” about a 210 pence per share bid, the recruitment group said yesterday in a statement to the stock exchange. This would value the business at £79.5 million, and represents a premium of 28.6 percent to Wednesday’s closing price of 163.25 pence.

The share price climbed as high as 199.25 pence in early trading before slipping back to 185.75 pence by the close.

Alchemy is backing a management buyout led by “certain executive directors”, according to Imprint. An independent committee has been set up to consider the bid.

The recruiter, which listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market in 2001, operates mainly in the banking and financial services sector. It trades under two organically-grown brands, Imprint Search & Selection and WoodHamill, and has also acquired four others: Accreate, ECHM, Morgan McKinley, and Dubai-based iQ selection, a full-service agency. It employs about 500 people in nine countries.

Alchemy, the UK buyout firm led by outspoken managing partner Jon Moulton, prides itself on its ability to do “difficult deals”. The firm has made a number of investments in the business services sector, including UK temporary recruitment business Right4Staff, which it bought for £28 million in 2002.

Imprint stressed that discussions were at an early stage, and that “there can be no certainty that this approach will lead to an offer being made for the company”.

At 09:56 BST on Friday morning, Imprint shares were trading at 185 pence, down 0.4 percent, giving the company a market capitalisation of £70.4 million.

The deal would be a further indication that small and mid-market buyouts are still able to attract financing despite the recent troubles in the credit markets, which have hit large buyout transactions on both sides of the Atlantic.