RAC Owner Carlyle Holds Talks About £2bn Sale
The owners of the RAC roadside recovery service have been holding secret talks about a £2bn sale in the wake of a modest stock market debut by the AA, its main rival.
Sky News has learnt that Carlyle, the private equity firm which has owned the RAC since 2011, is in preliminary discussions with competitors including Apax Partners and BC Partners about an outright takeover of the business.
Blackstone has also been sounded out about its appetite for a deal but is not thought to be interested.
It was unclear on Wednesday whether any of the talks with other buyout firms would lead to a deal, with several sources close to the RAC saying that they still expected it to become a publicly-listed company.
A flotation could take place as soon as this year, although some people close to the business are said to have become more serious about exploring a sale following last month's listing by the AA, Britain's biggest motoring organisation.
The AA struck a so-called management buy-in deal which involved selling hundreds of millions of pounds of shares to City investors and installing a new management team.
The shares had slipped from their original listing price of 250p but have since recovered and on Wednesday were trading at 252p.
People close to the RAC said it had substantially lower debt than the AA and argued that it had stronger growth prospects.
Sky News revealed in May that Carlyle had appointed Lazard, the investment bank, to advise it on options to exit its investment, on which it hopes to have doubled the value of the RAC.
Since then, banks including Barclays, Citi, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have been hired to act as bookrunners for an initial public offering (IPO).
The RAC, founded by the Royal Automobile Club in 1897, has more than seven million members, and has about 2,000 patrols which attend 2.5 million breakdowns every year.
The RAC, which is owned by the same private equity group as Addison Lee, the London-based taxi company, is chaired by Rob Templeman, who is expected to step down ahead of a flotation.
Its chief executive is Chris Woodhouse, with whom Mr Templeman worked at Debenhams, the department store chain.
Aviva sold the RAC in 2011 to focus on its core insurance operations but was widely regarded to have undervalued the RAC by offloading it for £1bn.
Last November, the RAC paid its owners a £163m dividend as it emerged that the company was on track to make £145m in pre-tax profit last year, almost double its 2010 earnings.
It recently announced the launch of its first mobile electric vehicle charging unit and has begun selling telematic tracking devices, a growing trend among motor insurers.
The RAC and the private equity firms declined to comment.