Trio back largest French unitranche of 2014

Macquarie, Tikehau and Hayfin underwrite unitranche bond backing MBO of salt maker Group Salins.

Macquarie Lending, Tikehau IM and funds managed and advised by Hayfin Capital Management have fully underwritten a unitranche bond financing for the management buyout of Group Salins, one of the largest producers of sea salt worldwide.

Macquarie and Tikehau co-arranged the €170 million unitranche, Tikehau said in a statement. Hayfin had been pursuing the same transaction but once closed by Macquarie and Tikehau, were subsequently brought in, a source close to the situation said. This was due to some competitive tension up until the end and the overall size of the facility making it worth splitting up, he added.

The facility has a seven-year maturity and was priced on the lower end of current unitranche pricing. Furthermore, a small revolving facility has been provided by a French institution.

According to a statement from Macquarie, the deal is the largest unitranche completed in France this year.

Florian Herold, co-head Europe of Macquarie Lending, said in a statement: “Group Salins is a solid business with strong defensive characteristics. As the owner of two of the best known consumer salt brands in France the company has developed a successful annuity style income stream and has historically shown countercyclical cash flows.”

The sea salt producer, which has revenues of €240 million, was acquired by Finachef, a family holding company owned by M Hubert Francois, former chief executive of Group Salins and Oxylis. The sale was finalised on 2 December 2014 by private equity groups Chequers Capital, Abenex and Omnes Capital.

With Francois, the underwriters agreed on documentation and flexible covenants that reflect the specific challenges Group Salins face with regard to the volatility of their earnings stream, Macquarie said.

Francois said in a statement: “It was a pleasure working with Macquarie, Tikehau and Hayfin on this transaction. They executed the financing in an expedited fashion with flexible terms that were tailored to our particular business.”

The deal is the second financing over €100 million that Macquarie and Tikehau have completed in 2014 and the fifth transaction that they have closed since establishing their French credit programme in 2013. The most recent deal was Itas TIM Group’s acquisition of OneCast, the broadcasting subsidiary of French broadcaster TF1.