Firms Bid For Birmingham NEC Amid Cash Crisis
A pack of private equity firms and pension funds are assembling bids for Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre (NEC) as the city's council seeks funds to meet a £1.1bn pay bill.
Sky News understands that buyout groups including Providence Equity Partners, the controlling shareholder in the Ambassador Theatre Group, are among the parties which have tabled indicative offers for the NEC Group.
An auction process is being led by City advisers at Gleacher Shacklock, with a deal expected to raise hundreds of millions of pounds.
The sale has been triggered by a cap on local authority borrowing and a High Court case dating back to 2012, which was brought by council-employed cleaners and dinner ladies who were pursuing the right to equal pay.
The NEC Group comprises its eponymous exhibition space, the International Convention Centre, the LG Arena and the National Indoor Arena.
It also owns a national ticketing agency called The Ticket Factory; Amplify, a hospitality brand; and Amadeus, a catering operation.
Banking sources said the sale of a stake in the group was likely to appeal to cash-rich private equity funds because of the business's growth prospects.
It is not clear how much the NEC is worth, although previous reports have quoted property experts valuing it at £300m.
It is also unclear whether bidders will be able to buy the entire business or whether Birmingham City Council will remain a shareholder.
Providence took control of Ambassador, which owns Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre, last year.
Announcing the planned sale in March, Sir Albert Bore, the council leader, said: "A key purpose of the city council investing in establishing the NEC Group more than 30 years ago was to drive economic development and regeneration.
"This has been achieved, but now the NEC Group has reached a point in its evolution where it needs to be able to adopt the financial disciplines of a private, rather than a council-owned company to enable the next stage of strategic development.
"In doing so, economic impact and job creation can be preserved and enhanced.
"An open sale process has been identified through an extensive strategic review process as the way to achieve full value for this internationally-renowned asset, whilst achieving the other principal objectives of enabling the Group to achieve its potential and growing economic impact."
Gleacher Shacklock declined to comment on Monday.