Leica and Blackstone

Leica’s largest shareholder, ACM Projektentwicklung, Salzburg, and The Blackstone Group announced today that Blackstone will become a strategic investor in Leica Camera AG with a minority stake of 44 per cent. ACM, with Dr Andreas Kaufmann as its owner, will continue to hold the majority of Leica shares.

What does this mean for photographers, cinematographers and practitioners of digital dark arts? Capital and commitment in high-end imaging. Read the official announcement:

London, Solms: The Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX) and ACM Projektentwicklung GmbH have agreed on a strategic partnership in which investment funds advised by Blackstone will acquire, indirectly through a holding company, a 44% minority stake in Leica Camera AG to support Leica’s international growth plans. ACM and Blackstone have agreed that the value of the transaction will not be disclosed. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in Q4/2011.

Headquartered in Solms, Germany, with 1,150 employees, Leica has a long tradition of manufacturing high-end cameras and sport optics products. Over the past sixty years, Leica has grown to become a leading German brand and is one of the few remaining German camera companies. Leica blends hand-crafted quality with a dedication to precision mechanics and outstanding optics.

Building on this successful market position, Leica now plans to expand the business into new markets. Blackstone is seen as the right partner to support Leica management to achieve these goals in light of its global footprint, in particular with significant operations in Asia, and its development capital and strategic expertise.

Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Leica commented on the transaction: “With Blackstone we have gained an experienced and internationally established strategic partner, which also understands and appreciates the established brand philosophy and business model of Leica. Following the successful turnaround of the business and record sales last year, we are now focused on the continued development of the brand, its products and our growth plans into new markets such as Asia, South America and the Middle East. ACM has no plans to sell more shares in Leica Camera AG. Our long term strategy is to accompany Leica Camera in its continued expansion worldwide.”

Axel Herberg, Blackstone Senior Managing Director, said: “We are very excited about supporting Leica to secure long-term commercial relationships, specifically in emerging markets, and help strengthen the company’s operational and retailing capabilities globally.”

Leica Camera AG concluded the 2010/2011 financial year with record sales of € 248.8m. The Hessen-based traditional manufacturer of cameras and sport optics products increased turnover by 57.2 % compared to the previous year (€ 158.2 m). The operating result (EBIT) increased almost six fold: it rose from € 7.4 m in 2009/2010 to € 41.6m. The consolidated surplus also took a positive turn: at € 36.3 m it is more than eleven times the previous year’s figure (€ 3.2m). The sales increase is attributed above all to the strong demand for the two camera systems, Leica M and Leica S.

The headquarters of Leica Camera AG are located in Solms, with a second production site in Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal. The company is active in 54 markets internationally and operates branches in England, France, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, South Korea and the USA. New, innovative products have been the driving force of the company’s growth in recent years. www.leica-camera.com

Blackstone is one of the world’s leading investment and advisory firms. Their businesses include the management of private equity funds, real estate funds, hedge funds, credit-oriented funds and closed-end mutual funds. The Blackstone Group also provides various financial advisory services, including financial and strategic advisory, restructuring and reorganization advisory and fund placement services. www.blackstone.com

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