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Race to acquire Center Parcs heats up before offer deadline

UK / Ireland: The race to acquire holiday village chain Center Parcs and its UK & Ireland sites is heating up as new bidders prepare to submit indicative offers ahead of an initial deadline on Tuesday [20 June].

According to Sky News, specialist real estate investment firm Aermont, which owns the Pinewood film studios empire, is set to join CVC Capital Partners [which already owns Away Resorts after a £250 million acquisition two years ago] and fellow private equity firm KSL Capital Partners [the latter in partnership with Singapore’s Government Investment Corporation – GIC] in bidding for Center Parcs, which is said to be on the market for between £4 billion and £5 billion.

It is also rumoured that alternative investment management firm Blackstone, which previously owned Center Parcs UK, and infrastructure fund Antin, may also submit bids for the resort chain.

In September, Blackstone agreed to sell fellow British seaside resort chain Butlin’s to the co-founders of holiday home ownership company Bourne Leisure, a newly formed firm backed by the Harris family. The family, which co-founded Bourne Leisure in the 1960s, bought back the operating business of Butlin’s, just a year and a half after they sold the Bourne Leisure portfolio to Blackstone for a reported £3 billion.

Center Parcs has been under the ownership of Canadian private equity group Brookfield since its £2.4 billion sale by Blackstone eight years ago.

Operating six holiday villages in the UK and Ireland, including attractions such as forest playgrounds and water parks, Center Parcs attracts more than two million visitors on an annual basis. Together, the five Center Parcs sites in the UK have been independently valued at £4.1 billion, and it is believed that the prospective sale would include approximately £2 billion in existing debt.

Its UK resorts include Eleven Forest in Suffolk; Whinfell Forest in Cumbria; Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire and Longleat Forest in Wiltshire; and in Ireland, it owns a site at Longford Forest, near Ballymahon.

The group also operates in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium, albeit under separate ownership.