Center Parcs
[Credit: Center Parcs]

Center Parcs put up for £4-5bn sale by Brookfield

UK: Holiday village company Center Parcs has been put up for sale by Canadian private equity group Brookfield for a figure between £4 billion and £5 billion, people familiar with the matter told The Financial Times

According to the newspaper, Brookfield has appointed investment bankers who have been sounding out potential buyers in the past week, including other private equity firms.

Should an acquisition go ahead, Brookfield could be set for a potential windfall, eight years after buying the holiday village chain for a reported £2.4 billion from alternative investment management firm Blackstone.

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

Despite market uncertainty and the current economic context, the British and European staycation industry has largely defied the slowdown in merger and acquisition [M&A] activity globally [deals between European private equity firms in Europe fell to their lowest levels in the first quarter while IPOs globally fell 61 per cent year on year over the same period, according to The Financial Times].

In September, it was announced that Blackstone was set to sell British seaside resort chain Butlin’s to the co-founders of holiday home ownership company Bourne Leisure.

Meanwhile this year, French campsite franchise Les Vacances Camping Paradis has secured investment to fund its expansion across the country, while pan-European leisure park operator The Looping Group is on the verge of being acquired by PAI Partners after the private equity firm submitted a binding offer to purchase the business from Mubadala Capital’s private equity business and Bpifrance.

On the other hand, holiday park group Parkdean Resorts is said to be in talks with bankers over a £600 million refinancing after turning its back on a prospective sale in February.

In February, it was also revealed that Center Parcs had scrapped plans to build a new holiday park in the UK.

In July 2021, it was announced that the company had secured an option agreement to acquire privately owned woodland in West Sussex near Crawley and build a holiday park worth up to £400 million. The site had been projected to create up to 1500 permanent jobs and an additional 1000 during the construction phase.

The 553-acre site, located at Oldhouse Warren off Balcombe Road, Worth, would have included self-catered lodges, a range of indoor and outdoor leisure facilities, a subtropical Swimming Paradise, a variety of restaurants and shops, and an Aqua Sana Spa.

However, Center Parcs has now confirmed that it has pulled out of the project as the location was deemed to not be “suitable” for the development, due to not being able to meet biodiversity targets at the site.

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