Buckingham Bingo Deal Forecasts Trouble for Private Equity Firms

19 March 2008

The Financial Times says the details of private equity firm Alchemy Partners' £100 million buy-out of Buckingham Bingo will hinge upon negotiations with Barclays, Alchemy's main creditor.

Alchemy is said to have two options: inject more equity into the business to cut debt levels or write off its £60 million equity investment, which would give control of Buckingham Bingo to Barclays.

Other private equity firms could find themselves in similar positions as the companies they acquired at peak valuations but high debt begin to suffer reduced earnings in the economic slowdown.

Buckingham and other bingo operators are additionally hurt by last year's smoking ban and changes to gambling laws and tax levels.

“The company is still profitable, but we have seen a step down in attendance and profits are down in line with the rest of the sector,” said Jon Moulton, head of Alchemy.

“If you can find a bingo group doing well, we would like to see it."