Cognetas off the mark in Milan

The buyout of vending machine business Gruppo Argenta by Cognetas and Investitori Associati marks the former’s first Italian deal since launching a Milan office in September 2006.

European mid-market investment firm Cognetas has teamed with Italian manager Investitori Associati to acquire Gruppo Argenta, a management and servicing business of vending machines, in a secondary buyout from global private equity group Advent International. Italy’s PM & Partners, a minority shareholder in the business, has also disposed of its stake.    

The deal value was not disclosed, although a source close to the transaction said it was worth around €700 million ($1 billion). He said the target company had been the subject of an auction process that also involved private equity firms Bain Capital and Cinven. 

Headquartered near Modena, Gruppo Argenta owns around 120,000 vending machines serving 65,000 businesses in Italy. A statement said the firm was “ideally placed to lead the consolidation process” in a highly fragmented industry with over 2,000 operators in Italy worth less than €2 billion between them.     

Cognetas, which has offices in London, Frankfurt and Paris as well as Milan, is currently investing from a €1.26 billion fund it closed in July 2005. It was advised on the deal by Lazard & Co, Deloitte and Houlihan Lokey.      

Advent International acquired Gruppo Argenta in a €244 million buyout in June 2005. The firm completed 11 acquisitions during Advent’s period of ownership, doubling Argenta’s sales in the process.