Terra Firma in second round bid for garden chain

Terra Firma, the private equity firm controlled by the City financier Guy Hands, is among a small number of buy-out companies that have submitted second-round bids of up to £300m to acquire the Garden Centre Group (GCG).

Lloyds – which owns about 40 per cent of GCG – put the 130-store gardening specialist on the market, hiring Rothschild as its adviser, and second round bids were due in by 2 December. Terra Firma, CCMP and possibly one other suitor placed second-round offers to acquire the retailer, but it is unclear if the buy-out firm Apax is still involved.

However, the sale of the gardening specialist is unlikely to be completed until early next year, as the bidders are understood to have asked for more time to study the books. After Lloyds, the billionaire philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter is the second biggest shareholder with a 20 per cent stake.

Formerly called Wyevale, GCG delivered a pre-tax profit of £860,000 in the year to 26 December 2010, which was a sharp fall from the previous year's £13.2m.

But the group's performance is thought to have improved this year, boosted by the warm weather in April and late September. Its store portfolio has been valued at about £300m, as it includes a large number of freeholds. All parties declined to comment on the sale process.

Guy Hands, who founded Terra Firma, is best-known for his calamitous £4.2bn acquisition of the music group EMI in 2007.

He lost control of the debt-laden EMI to Citigroup this year. The American banking group then sold the British company's recorded music business to Universal in a deal worth $1.9bn last month, while a consortium led by Sony acquired EMI's music publishing arm for $2.2bn shortly afterwards.

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