By Harry Brumpton and Joshua Franklin
(Reuters) – Blackstone Group LP <BX.N>, Carlyle Group LP <CG.O>, Onex Corp <ONEX.TO> and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board have joined forces in a bid to acquire aluminium products maker Arconic Inc <ARNC.N>, according to people familiar with the matter.
Such alliances, referred to as “club deals” in the private equity industry, lost much of their allure following the 2008 financial crisis, as some high-profile leveraged buyouts either ended up in bankruptcy or underperformed financially.
Many buyout firms, accustomed to sole operational control of the companies they buy and deciding how and when to cash out on their investment on their own, occasionally clashed with peers they teamed up with. Some of them even had to fork out hundreds of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits accusing them of conspiring to drive down acquisition prices during the leveraged buyout boom leading up to the crisis.
However, a surge in private equity dealmaking, fuelled by cheap debt and record fundraising, is leading to bigger leveraged buyouts, requiring private equity firms to write bigger checks and prompting them to consider teaming up once again.
This is happening even though some private equity firms appear to publicly frown upon these deals. For example, Prakash Melwani, Blackstone’s chief investment officer for private equity, said earlier this year that club deals had been “discredited, because, when the downturn happened, governance was very difficult when you have six (private equity) sponsors.”
“Club deals are really not popular anymore,” Melwani said at the Columbia Business School Private Equity Conference in February.
Earlier this month, a Blackstone-led consortium completed the largest leveraged buyout since the crisis, taking over the financial data arm of Thomson Reuters Corp <TRI.TO>, the parent of Reuters News, in a deal valued at $20 billion, including debt.
Arconic has the potential to rival that deal should the private equity firms that are seeking to acquire it decide to pay a significant premium. Arconic has a market capitalisation of $10.6 billion and total debt of $6.3 billion.
Arconic will decide whether to agree to a sale later this month, the sources said, cautioning that there is no certainty of a deal. The private equity consortium that formed still faces competition from other buyout firms, including Apollo Global Management LLC <APO.N>, the sources said.
The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. Blackstone, Carlyle, Onex, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Apollo declined to comment, while Arconic did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
To be sure, high-profile unsuccessful club deals, such as the leveraged buyouts of Texas utility Energy Future Holdings and retailer Toys ‘R’ Us, which ended in bankruptcy, are not representative of all such deals. Many of them proved financially successful, as in the case of hospital operator HCA Healthcare Inc <HCA.N>.
Despite several highly publicized failures, club deals are approximately 50 percent less likely to go out of business or bankrupt than buyouts led by one private equity firm, market research firm PitchBook said last month.
Arconic’s products, which are made of aluminium, titanium or nickel, are used around the world by aerospace, automotive, commercial transportation and packaging manufacturers.
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based company, which was spun out of Alcoa Corp <AA.N> in 2016, said in February it would carry out a “strategy and portfolio review,” to be completed by the time its holds its investor day in November.
As planemakers ramp up production to satisfy growing global demand for air travel, Arconic is paying more attention to aircraft parts.
In August, Arconic announced it was considering selling its building and construction systems unit, which makes facades, windows and framing products. The announcement came one year after a major fire broke out at London’s Grenfell Tower apartment complex, where the company’s Reynobond PE panels were used in the cladding. More than 70 people were killed in the blaze.
Activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp, which won board representation at Arconic last year following a proxy contest, has been instrumental in pushing the company to explore a sale, sources have said.
(Reporting by Harry Brumpton and Joshua Franklin in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski)