Carlyle brings curtain down on Freeport

A year after Carlyle was first mooted as a potential suitor, the US firm has finally gained acceptances from almost 97 percent of shareholders to take over European factory outlet developer Freeport for £155 million (€228miilion;$304 million).

Freeport told the London Stock Exchange today that shareholders representing 96.94 percent of its stock have accepted a takeover by US firm Carlyle.

Freeport said the remaining 3 percent of shares will be subject to compulsory purchase procedures and that the company will be de-listed soon.

Carlyle is acquiring Freeport via property vehicle Carlyle European Real Estate Partners II (CEREP) having agreed to pay £4.10 per share in March when its target was valued at £155 million.

Freeport operates four factory outlet centers in continental Europe. They are at Lisbon in Portugal, Roppenheim in eastern France, Excalibur in the Czech Republic, and Kungsbacka in Sweden. At 111,000 square meters, the Lisbon property is the largest factory outlet center in Europe. It opened in 2004 in time for the European football Championships.

Carlyle’s acquisition has been a fraught one given that it tried to extricate itself from the takeover earlier this year.

It first surfaced as a potential suitor in August 2006 and reportedly began negotiations in December. However, the deal appeared to have fallen apart by February this year. Carlyle initially pitched its bid at £4.37 a share, but asset write-downs and revaluations of properties by Freeport sent the deal into turmoil.

Having dropped its bid to £4, Carlyle then increased it to £4.10. This eventually found favour with the Freeport board, and shareholders Laxey Partners, Schroders and Guinness Peat, which represent 49 percent between them.