£350m sale of lingerie chain overcomes red tape

Dutch lingerie firm Hunkemöller’s takeover by private equity firm Carlyle Group has been given the go-ahead by European competition officials.

The European Commission approved the takeover earlier this month after ruling that there was overlap between Hunkemöller and the American firm’s existing activities.

Carlyle Group owns two other businesses that are focused on women’s underwear and bath fashion, but the EC said this was not an issue.

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It stated: "Two of [Carlyle’s] portfolio companies, Twin-Set Simona Barbieri and Penti, are active as manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer of woman’s underwear and swimwear. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because the overlaps between the companies’ activities resulting from the proposed transaction are limited.”

It is thought that Carlyle is paying about €440m (£346m) for the business, which runs more than 700 retail stores across Europe and has a global ecommerce presence.

The deal represents a good profit margin for former owners PAI Partners, which are reported to have paid around €265m (£208m) for the chain six years ago.

Speaking at the end of last year when the deal was announced, Hunkemöller CEO Philip Mountford, said the company was looking forward to the next stage of its growth.

"Hunkemöller has seen substantial growth over the last five years developing from a physical retailer into becoming the leading European omni-channel lingerie brand,” he said. “PAI Partners have been instrumental in helping us through this journey. The Carlyle Group will work with us to continue to enhance our strategic vision and grow the business further as we leverage Carlyle’s global network, its extensive experience and expertise in the retail fashion sector. "

The lingerie brand said it now holds pole position in Benelux, is a significant force in Germany, and is increasing its presence across France, Spain and Scandinavia. .

Marco De Benedetti, managing director and co-head of The Carlyle Europe Partners, added: "We’ve admired the Hunkemöller brand for a long time, watching it transform very impressively from its roots as a Benelux retailer to becoming a major European omni-channel lingerie brand.

“Hunkemöller has differentiated itself from its competitors by winning market share during a challenging economic period. We are looking forward to back Philip Mountford and his management team as the company will be entering the next stage of its exciting journey.”