Trade Me backs $2.5B buyout offer from UK private equity firm

Trade Me backs $2.5B buyout offer from UK private equity firm

Apax Partners matches rival offer

Credit: Dreamstime

New Zealand's top online marketplace Trade Me has agreed to be acquired by a British private equity firm for $2.56 billion or $6.45 a share, after it matched a rival offer.

The London-based private equity group Apax Partners offered $6.40 for each share of Trade Me in November.

California-based Hellman & Friedman later trumped this with a $6.45 per share offer, which Apax matched on Wednesday.

In the absence of a higher proposal, Trade Me's board recommended that shareholders back the Apax offer, which represents a 5.4 per cent premium to the company's last close of $6.12.

Shares have surged about 20 per cent since Apax first offered to buy the company, which launched in 1999 with 15 staff.

It now has more than 600 employees and says it has the most customers among online classified advertising platforms in New Zealand.

"After careful consideration, the board has unanimously concluded that this (Apax) offer is consistent with our efforts to deliver maximum value for shareholders," Chairman David Kirk said.

The Apax offer is subject to shareholder approval as well as regulatory approval from the High Court of New Zealand and the Overseas Investment Office.

Under the agreement, Trade Me may have to pay a "break fee" of $19.2 million to Apax if it walks away from the deal.

Trade Me said the deal represented an enterprise value of $2.74 billion.

(Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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