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Halfords buyer tipped to take Kwik-Fit from Ford

Little-known investment specialist CVC Capital Partners is set to become one of the biggest players in the British aftermarket with the acquisition of Halfords, and the expected cut-price purchase of Kwik-Fit from Ford.

CVC last week said it was buying Halfords from Boots for £410m and is favourite to snap up Kwik-Fit for as little as £300m. The company specialises in management-led buyouts across Europe and manages more than £5bn in equity capital.

The Halfords purchase is expected to be completed by the end of this month. The car accessory and bicycle chain employs 9800 staff across 400 stores. CVC intends to invest and open new stores and is likely to float the business within two to three years.

If the £300m Kwik-Fit deal goes through, CVC will have acquired a brand that many think is the best in the aftermarket, and a network of 1900 sites, for next-to-nothing. It's not yet clear why Ford may be forced to sell the chain for £800m less than it paid just a few years ago - particularly as the property market has been strong recently. The carmaker is thought likely to retain a minor stake in the business to take advantage of any upturn.

The recent ruling on block exemption has boosted independent aftermarket operations by giving them the opportunity to compete with franchised dealerships for servicing and repair work. CVC could exploit the strength of the Kwik-Fit and Halfords brands to provide a nationwide network of aftermarket centres competing against franchised dealers.

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