Foxtons Buyout Firm Snatches Insurer Sabre
A motor insurer that was once part of the industry giant General Accident has been snapped up by the private equity group behind Foxtons, the estate agency chain.
Sky News has learnt that BC Partners, which is one of Britain's biggest buyout firms, has bought a controlling stake in Sabre Insurance, a Surrey-based group whose brands include Insurer 2 Drive and Go Girl, a brand targeted at female drivers.
Sabre, which was founded in 1982, specialises in non-standard insurance products such as non-comprehensive cover and policies for newly-qualified motorists.
The value of the deal with BC is unclear although one banker said it was likely to have valued Sabre in the "low hundreds of millions" of pounds.
BC has bought a controlling stake in the business with Sabre's senior management reinvesting part of their windfall in the company, according to people close to the transaction.
Sabre was acquired by General Accident in 1996 and, following a series of mergers with Commercial Union and Norwich Union, it was sold to BDML Group, an independent insurance company.
In 2005 BDML sold its broking subsidiary, BDML Connect, to Capita and changed its name to Binomial Group Limited.
Sabre, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Binomial, has seen policy numbers soar from 85,000 in 2005 to more than 200,000 in 2012, with pre-tax profit of more than £39m in 2012, according to company accounts.
In notes contained in its 2012 accounts, Sabre said that market conditions had "deteriorated particularly in the second half of 2012, the cause of which may have been competitors' 2011 results being much better than the previous year".
It also pointed to a number of uncertainties in the motor insurance market in 2013, including changes to European Union legislation covering the sector.
BC's investment in Sabre is the latest in a string of deals in the car insurance sector following the flotation last year of Direct Line Group and the less successful - in terms of share price performance - listing of Esure.
The investment by BC comes as it prepares to press the button on a flotation of Foxtons that will cap a remarkable turnaround for the private equity group.
BC declined to comment.