Belfast Telegraph

Group behind Saga and the AA suffers painful losses of £529m

By James Thompson

The private-equity group behind the AA and Saga has suffered annual losses of £529m, following huge interest payments on its debt mountain.

Acromas, which owns the roadside-recovery company and the specialist holiday firm for the over-50s, posted an operating profit of £183.5m for the year to 31 January, as both brands enjoyed strong sales.

But this profit was dwarfed by interest payments of £705m, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

Acromas was created in June 2007 – at the height of the buy-out boom – in a £6.15bn deal that brought together Charterhouse's Saga and CVC's AA. The transaction valued the AA at £3.35bn and Saga at £2.8bn.

The private-equity consortium, including Charterhouse, Permira and CVC, funded the acquisition with £4.8bn of bank borrowings and £1.5bn of shareholder loans.

But Acromas's chief executive, Andrew Goodsell, said the group had continued to trade strongly in its second full year as a combined entity.

According to reports, the debt pile of Acromas jumped by 3.5 per cent to £6.4bn last year, although this includes £4.9bn of bank loans that the group does not have to start repaying until 2015.

Saga is trying to diversify its own portfolio and last week had its £102m takeover offer for Nestor, a home care provider, rejected.

However, a deal to merge the two companies is expected to be struck eventually.

Belfast Telegraph