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UPDATE: Italy's Amplifon To Buy Australia's NHC For A$460 Million


(Rewrites throughout adding detail, background and comment.)

   By Giada Zampano and Marietta Cauchi 

ROME -(Dow Jones)- Hearing aid retailer Amplifon SA (AMP.MI) said Tuesday it signed an agreement to buy Australia's NHC Group Pty Ltd for A$460 million in cash from its private equity owner--a deal that will transform the Italian company's business and reach.

The deal is transformative for Amplifon which has a market cap of just EUR700 million despite being the world's largest hearing aid retailer. NHC, which is owned by Crescent Capital and has 200 stores in Australia, New Zealand and India, will give Amplifon a substantial foothold in a new market and will also help it move on the fast growing markets in Asia.

"This acquisition represents a milestone in the history of our Group," said Franco Moscetti, Amplifon's chief executive.

"We will enter new markets through the acquisition of a player with a strong position, proven business model, experienced management team and recognized brand. Amplifon will also benefit from a solid platform to pursue a path of expansion in other Asian markets, whose increasing role will allow us to further accelerate growth and development of our business," Moscetti said.

It is a chunky deal for Amplifon and at more than 10 times NHC's EBITDA of A$41 million higher than the eight or nine times EBITDA historically paid for takeovers in Australasia's healthcare services. Citi advised Amplifon on the deal.

Amplifon is financing the acquisition through a new bank financing organized by Banca Imi S.p.A., BNP Paribas' (BNP.FR) Italian Branch, Citigroup Global Markets Limited and UniCredit Corporate Banking S.p.A.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) advised NHC on the auction which attracted trade and private equity buyers. Local reports linked rivals as Swiss Sonova Holding AG (SOON.VX) and Denmark's William Demant Holding A/S (WDH.KO). Buyout firms TA Associates and a consortium of Ironbridge Capital and Archer Capital were also reported to have been interested.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2010 and is subject to the approval of the Foreign Investment Review Board in Australia and the Overseas Investment Office in New Zealand.


-By Giada Zampano and Marietta Cauchi, Dow Jones Newswires; +39 06 69766920;


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 28, 2010 12:33 ET (16:33 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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