Private equity firms bid for American Golf

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The Independent Online

A number of private equity firms have teed off in bids for American Golf, the UK's major golf retail specialist, which is for sale at up to £80m.

Bridgepoint Development Capital is among buyout firms to lodge offers for the 83-store retailer by the first-round deadline of 8 July. Lloyds Development Capital (LDC), the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group, put the chain up for sale by appointing Rothschild as advisers in May.

American Golf grew sales strongly in the last year, partly boosted by the recent success of home-grown players. Darren Clarke delivered Northern Ireland's third major championship win in just over a year yesterday, when he triumphed at the British Open.

Bridgepoint Development Capital is the smaller buyout arm of Bridgepoint, the firm that owns the retailers HobbyCraft and Fat Face as well as the sandwich chain Pret A Manger.

Sources said there had been strong bid interest in American Golf, which increased its like-for-like sales by13.9 per cent for the quarter to 1 May, boosted by the heatwave in April.

LDC paid £40m for American Golf in 2004, when it had less stores. The retailer's sales rose 20 per cent to £86.6m in the year to 31 January, aided by a 15 per cent increase in online revenue. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation came in at about £5m. American Golf, Rothschild and LDC did not comment.

However, there is no guarantee that American Golf will be sold during a turbulent time for the retail sector, when consumers are sharply cutting back on their discretionary spending.