Domestic self-catering operator Forest Holidays has been sold to Phoenix Equity Partners in a deal valuing it at about £110 million.
The company, which runs holidays in eco-cabins and treehouses on nine sites from Argyll to Cornwall, said that the private equity firm’s investment would allow it to press ahead with developing at least five new sites over the coming five years.
The new sites, costing about £10 million apiece, will include two in Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons in Wales that already have planning permission and one near Peebles, in the Scottish Borders, where an application has been submitted.
Phoenix, which also owns the caravan park operator Bridge Leisure, has acquired a controlling stake, estimated at just over 50%, The Times reported.
The remainder will be held by the Forestry Commission, the management and LDC, its existing private equity backer.
Turnover has increased from £12 million to £37 million and underlying earnings have jumped tenfold to more than £10 million since LDC, part of Lloyds Banking Group, made its initial investment in 2012.
Chief executive Bruce McKendrick said that the cabins were designed to fit in with the woodland environment and have a minimal impact on the ecology of the site, while contributing £2 million a year to the local rural economy of each site and creating 60 jobs.
He said that the cabins enjoyed year-round occupancy of 90%, helped partly by the boost to the staycation trend from the weak pound. Although there were few overseas visitors, he said that it had recently started marketing to the Benelux countries.
McKendrick said that he believed that the group could continue growing its earnings at the current rate for the next decade and beyond on the back of continuing expansion.
“The commission has one million hectares of forest in Great Britain so we’ve got plenty to keep us going for many years to come,” he said.
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