Cerea Partenaire acquires majority stake in ICKO Apiculture

The investment from the €225m Cerea Capital II fund to acquire a majority stake in ICKO will enable the beekeeping equipment supplier to expand globally and extend its research and development operations.

French fund manager Cerea Partenaire has made a strategic investment into ICKO Apiculture, a European supplier of beekeeping equipment, providing funds from its €225 million Cerea Capital II vehicle.

Cerea Partenaire – which now majority owns the company ICKO – raises, manages and advises funds dedicated to buyouts, mezzanine and debt financing in agri-business and related sectors, usually acting as a majority or joint-majority private equity investor. The transaction – whose size was not disclosed – will be part-financed by a banking pool composed of Credit du North, BNP Paribas, LCL and the European Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Debt Fund, managed by BNP Paribas.

The French manager and ICKO believe the investment will address strategic opportunities and enable the apiculture company to focus on its development – capitalizing on the growing number of beekeepers in France, which has been increasing since 2007. The investment will also allow more innovation, with increased research and development to improve beekeepers’ working conditions, Cerea Partenaire added. In addition, the funding will facilitate external growth and export development, with a focus on Italy, Spain, Germany, Northern Africa and the Middle East, the fund manager said.

Xavier Renault, Cerea Capital Director, said “We aim to double or triple the size of this family business over 5 to 7 years with this transaction and help it to diversify into new European markets”. France also has a national production deficit of around 50% in honey so there is a lot of scope to expand, to capitalize on the growing trend towards consuming healthy and natural products like honey which is essentially organic, he underlined.

ICKO’s sales currently total around €26 million and it distributes its 4,500 products by correspondence and ecommerce as well as through an integrated network of six stores and more than 600 retailers in France and abroad. It targets beekeepers’ needs, ranging from beeswax, nutrition products, beehives, packaging tools and equipment.

“This collaboration will allow us to strengthen our commitment, our international presence and to bring more innovation, advice, services, support and satisfaction to professional and amateur beekeepers,” Pierre Ickowicz, president of ICKO Apiculture, said.

Cerea Partenaire is a subsidiary and sponsored by Unigrains, a big provider of growth capital to the agribusiness industry, with over €600 m assets under management and up to 20% of Cerea funds.