One of Canada’s largest public pension plan has agreed to buy 75 percent of Helly Hansen, giving the Norwegian designer and marketer of outdoor apparel access to deep pockets, global connections and patience.
Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (Teachers'), through its private equity investment division, Teachers' Private Capital (TPC), said it agreed to acquire the stake from Altor Fund II, which will retain a 25 percent stake in the company. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the parties did say Helly Hansen generated revenues of NOK 1,576 million ($282 mm) in 2011, indicating an annual growth rate of about 16 percent in currency-neutral (NOK) terms. Altor Fund II acquired Helly Hansen in November 2006.
Helly Hansen products are distributed in more than 40 countries, including the United States, where they are carried by approximately 350 stores. That includes 10 Helly Hansen stores and dozens of independently runs shops at ski resorts, marinas and other locations. The company is headquartered in Oslo and employs approximately 500.
Teachers manages $117.1 billion in assets on behalf of 300,000 active and retired teachers in Ontario. A major investor in private infrastructure projects, its portfolio includes a 39 percent stake in Brussels Airport and a 30 percent stake in Copenhagen Airport.
While it may seem unusual for a public pension to buy a direct 75 percent stake in a consumer products company, TPC is one of the largest and most highly regarded investment pools of its kind in the world. An independent arm of Teachers, TPC manages a global portfolio valued at approximately $12 billion and has generated average returns of nearly 20 percent since its inception in 1991. In December, it agreed to sell its 79.5 percent stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment for $1.32 billion 17 years after first investing in the company.
The deal also comes amidst a surge in private equity investing by major public pension funds. PE holdings by major pension funds reached $220 billion at the end of 2011, up about $50 billion from a year earlier, according to a January report in the Wall Street Journal. On average, private equity made up 11 percent of pension funds’ assets compared to 8.6 a year earlier.
Advisors to Altor in the transaction were ABG Sundal Collier, Robert W Baird, Wiersholm and PwC.