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The private equity firm Permira, which had a controlling stake in Ferretti in the early 2000s, has re-entered the marine leisure industry by acquiring Boats Group from fellow private equity investors, Apax Partners. Although the deal was struck on the 29th of December, the transaction value was not disclosed either by Apax or Permira but it has been reported today by Flashes and Flames, the highly regarded and well-informed specialist media investment newsletter, as being in the region of $850m. This is believed to be four times what Apax paid for the business just four years ago.

The Boats Group which is headquartered in Miami but has subsidiaries in the UK, France, the Netherlands, and Spain, provides 4,000 brokers worldwide with data, marketing, and software solutions to improve overall profitability and manage their operations. Its leading brands are Boat Trader,, Yacht World, Costas de Barcos, Announces du Bateaux, and Botentekoop.

The company employs 200 people and advertises boats for sale in 143 countries. In 2018, over 140 million visitors visited the company’s websites, apps, and social media outlets which are translated into 13 languages.

Apax had acquired Dominion Marine Media in 2016 (based in the UK at the time) when revenues were $40 million, with an EBITDA of $16m. Revenue in 2020 is estimated at $75m with a profit of some $40m, reflecting a margin increase from 35% in 2016 to more than 50% last year. The major driver of revenue and profit is provided by and in total, some 80% of the company’s revenue is earned in the US.

The deal echoes Apax’s IPO success with Auto Trader which it acquired from the UK newspaper group, The Guardian, and other shareholders for €1.7bn in 2015, which has more than trebled in value in the following seven years.

As with Auto Trader, Apax pushed Boats Group to invest in platforms and technology and also made three acquisitions in Europe – Costas De Barcos, Announces Bateaux, and Botentekoop – totaling €8,5m.

Just days before the deal was announced one of the Boat Group’s subsidiary company’s – Yacht World International in the UK – filed its annual accounts for the year ending 31 December 2019. The accounts revealed that revenues had risen from €4,4m in 2018 to €4.9m and that pre-tax profit had improved from €336,000 to €1,12 million. The geographic breakdown of revenues showed that 20% was UK base, 70% from the rest of Europe, and 10% from the rest of the world. In 2019 the company had 55 employees.

Permira has not released any plans for its newly acquired business or stated where it believes growth will come from, but its previous involvement in the marine leisure industry when it took Ferretti public, was extremely rewarding.

As with many such investors, it may already have identified the next potential buyer.

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