Williams family eyes £85m pay day from Deutsche Post

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Deutsche Post, the German logistics giant, announced plans to take a 75 per cent stake in Williams Lea yesterday, providing a potential £85m pay day for the UK communications group's founders, the Williams family, as well as an exit for its largest shareholder, 3i.

The £210m deal - which comes just a few months after Deutsche's £3.7bn acquisition of the UK logistics company Exel - will further strengthen Deutsche Post's position outside its domestic market. The group has been rapidly expanding abroad in recent months to try to prepare itself for the loss of its monopoly in the German postal market, which is set to expire at the end of this year.

3i, which invested more than £30m in Williams Lea almost two years ago, said yesterday it was selling its 38 per cent stake in the company for £110m - generating a return of about 240 per cent.

It is not known which other shareholders have agreed to the offer. Deutsche Post confirmed yesterday that it had received irrevocable acceptances from 51 per cent of shareholders, and said it expected to receive acceptances from 75 per cent of investors in total. It added that it had also negotiated the option to purchase the remaining 25 per cent in the company within the next three years.

The Williams family, which has been involved in the company for more than 120 years, owns a 30 per cent stake in the group, while the management and staff own about 32 per cent.

Williams Lea specialises in the delivery of specialist and sensitive corporate information. The executive team have agreed to stay on at the company after the acquisition, and are to retain a minimum of 51 per cent of the equity which they hold in the group.

Tim Rodber, the former England rugby union international, may also be a beneficiary of the Deutsche Post deal, securing the chance to cash in his stake in the firm. Mr Rodber sold his company, Rodber Thornycroft, to Williams Lea three years ago, receiving about £1m of equity in the company at the time. His stake is expected to have at least trebled in value since.

Hans-Dieter Petram, the Deutsche Post executive director responsible for international mail, said: "Williams Lea creates a superb platform for taking advantage of the ever-increasing liberalisation of international mail markets. And with one eye on the termination of the German exclusive licence, the acquisition ensures the continued profitability of the mail business."

Tim Griffiths, Williams Lea's chief executive, added: "[Deutsche Post's] business is wholly complementary to ours and we are eager to draw on their extensive business experience as a major global organisation.

"We see considerable potential to leverage Deutsche Post World Net's world class mail and logistics capability in order to add more value to Williams Lea's proposition for new and existing clients."

Shares in Deutsche Post closed up 0.25 cents in Germany yesterday, at €23.40 (£15.98), giving the company a market value of €27.9bn.