Montagu makes quick sale to trade buyer

Trade buyer Towergate has bought IT company Open International from Montagu Private Equity, led by Chris Masterson, indicating trade sales are still viable as an exit route.

UK buyout firm Montagu Private Equity has sold IT company Open International to the UK’s largest private independent insurance company Towergate for £276 million ($537 million, €381 million).

Chris Masterson

The sale suggests portfolio company exits to trade buyers are still completing despite general fears about a potential dearth of buyers following the recent credit squeeze. UK buyout firm Milestone Capital Partners managed to sell datacentre company IX Europe to rival Equinix for an undisclosed sum at the beginning of the month.

Montagu’s spokesman said: “Normally Montagu would have held it for a longer period of time but Towergate came in with an early offer and it was seen as a natural buyer.”

Open International provides IT to around 40 percent of the UK broker market and has strong partnerships with all major insurers. The company was purchased from Misys in March 2006 in a management buyout by Montagu Private Equity for £182 million.

Under Montagu’s ownership the business expanded with the acquisition of MI Limited for around £12 million. In May 2007, the IT company had an annual turnover of £35 million with an EBITDA of £18.8 million.

The business will remain a separate entity and chief executive Phillip Bell will retain control of the company.

The acquisition is Towergate’s largest ever deal in its ten year history.