Britain’s oldest private equity firm is plotting a joint bid for the owner of a controlling stake in Welcome Break, the motorway service station operator.
Sky News has learnt that 3i Infrastructure has teamed up with Equitix, a big asset manager, to try to acquire the UK portfolio of NIBC European Infrastructure Fund.
3i’s involvement would see it taking over a 55% stake in Welcome Break, which trades from 27 sites across the UK.
The stake accounts for most of the value in the NIBC portfolio, which also consists of stakes in a number of hospitals and private finance initiative projects, as well as several renewable energy ventures.
Equitix would acquire the other assets if its joint bid with 3i Infrastructure is successful, according to insiders.
The potential change of control at Welcome Break would be the latest transaction involving a leading infrastructure investor backing a business in the sector.
Long-term funds are attracted to the industry because of its predictable revenue base and the opportunity to grow profits by expanding the retail offering to customers.
Welcome Break sites are visited by about 85 million people each year, with restaurant partners including Harry Ramsden’s, Burger King and Tossed, the salad chain.
The remaining 45% stake in the motorway service station operator is owned by Arjun Infrastructure Partners, while rivals such as Moto are also backed by private equity and pension funds.
Reports have suggested that Welcome Break’s overall value is likely to be in excess of £700m.
The NIBC portfolio is being sold by Evercore, the investment bank.