NEC sold in £307 million deal

Birmingham City Council has announced the sale of the NEC group to an equity company.

The NEC Group  sold to help pay Birmingham City Council's giant equal pay bill.

The council stated this morning that it has entered into a binding agreement for the sale of the NEC Group to equity group LDC. The move comes at a time of intense financial pressure which has led to swingeing cuts in the local authority’s services, and it is claimed that bringing the NEC Group under private ownership will enable the business to maximise its growth opportunities and achieve its strategic potential.

LDC – the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group – has been selected after an extensive sale process. The transaction maximises proceeds for Birmingham City Council and is consistent with the council’s vision and strategic ambitions for the NEC Group and the wider regional development. LDC is providing the equity funding for the acquisition, with the provision of debt being led by Macquarie Bank.

The transaction values the NEC Group at around £307 million, £15 million of which will be in the form of a loan note, including the value of the leases of the Hilton Metropole and Crowne Plaza hotels on the NEC site which are being retained by the council.

The sale encompasses all NEC Group businesses, with the Council providing a 125 year leasehold interest in the NEC site (including the NEC Exhibition halls, The Genting Arena – formerly the LG Arena – and the Resorts World development), and 25 year leasehold interests in the International Convention Centre (“ICC”) and Barclaycard Arena (formerly the National Indoor Arena). Birmingham City Council is retaining the freehold of all the NEC sites. The transaction also protects the existing uses of all venues as well as Symphony Hall.

Birmingham City Council has retained a right to claw back certain non-core land at the NEC site for future development. The transaction does not include various plots of undeveloped land adjacent to the NEC site (primarily east of the M42), which will be retained by Birmingham City Council.

NEC’s defined benefit pension schemes, which have been closed to the accrual of future benefits since 2010, will be retained by and benefit from the continued financial support of Birmingham City Council. The sale of the NEC Group and the transfer of the schemes do not have any impact on the benefits payable to members under these schemes.

Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The announcement of a new owner is a landmark moment in the history and development of the NEC Group and its three operating sites: NEC, ICC and Barclaycard Arena.

“We are very pleased to have attracted a Birmingham-based buyer in LDC that understands the local importance of the NEC and shares our vision for the future. This will ensure that the business goes from strength to strength, and that the NEC continues to play a leading role in the wider economic development of the region whilst securing Birmingham and the wider West Midlands’ position as the home for outstanding live events. We are looking forward to working alongside LDC to achieve this goal.”

Martin Draper, LDC’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “The NEC Group is one of the UK’s best known and iconic businesses, particularly so in the Midlands, where it is at the heart of the region’s commercial and leisure activities.

“The NEC Group has developed significantly over recent years and we are delighted to be working with such a strong and experienced team to deliver the NEC’s next exciting phase of development. We also look forward to working closely with both Birmingham and Solihull Councils to support their plans at both the NEC and City Centre sites which include the airport expansion, redevelopment of the Paradise Circus area and in connection with the HS2 project.”

Paul Thandi, NEC Group’s Chief Executive commented: “The successful conclusion to the sale process is very good news for all concerned. NEC Group has thrived under Birmingham City Council’s ownership and the region has benefitted enormously. Today, the Council is able to realise substantial proceeds from this transaction whilst providing the Group with an opportunity to benefit from numerous growth opportunities in the core and ancillary businesses and internationally, and ensuring it remains a cornerstone of the region’s economic prospects.

“NEC Group management and staff are motivated to realise our ambitions and accelerate our growth strategy under new ownership alongside LDC. From the start the management at LDC has understood the Group’s potential with new ways of deploying investment in resources and capital to the benefit of the business, our customers, and our markets. Their support will allow us to capitalise on our market-leading position and our team look forward to building a new phase of organic and acquisitive growth.”