Britain’s largest pension scheme is preparing for an excursion into the burgeoning holiday market by filing a take-over bid for one of the UK’s largest holiday resort operators.
Sky News has learned that the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) was among the preliminary bidders for Park Holidays, which owns more than 30 sites in the south of England.
Sources in the city said USS had submitted an initial offer in recent weeks, pitting it against private equity firms, including KKR and PAI Partners.
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USS, which manages £ 82 billion in pension assets, is a shareholder in some of the UK’s largest companies, including motorway service operator Moto, Thames Water and NATS, the company that controls the UK’s commercial airspace -United.
Its stake in Park Holidays follows a decision by investment firm Intermediate Capital Group (ICG) to hire HSBC and the Royal Bank of Canada to hold an auction of the company.
The company is the largest such operator in the south of England, with 33 parks under its ownership, including Dawlish in Devon, Felixstowe in Suffolk and Birchington in Kent.
It offers caravan and lodge stays, tourism and camping, and home ownership.
An exact valuation of Park Holidays was unclear on Wednesday, but analysts expect it to be worth more than £ 500million, well above the £ 362million paid by ICG to buy the company to Caledonia Investments in 2017.
The impact of the pandemic on overseas travel has spurred a glut of national holidays in Britain, with a trend set to continue into next year and beyond.
Other recent deals in the industry have included CVC Capital Partners buying Away Resorts – the owner of well-known holiday parks such as Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight and Sandy Balls in the New Forest – and subsequently combining it with Aria, another operator.
Bourne Leisure, owner of Butlin’s and Haven, was sold in February to Blackstone, another major buyout firm.
A spokeswoman for the USS declined to comment.