3i acquires 24% shareholding in Character Group plc

18 Jul 2006

3i, Europe's leading private equity company, today announces it has acquired an approximately 24.01% shareholding in The Character Group plc, the market leading Aim-listed toy company. 3i negotiated a private purchase of the shareholding from a European corporate.

Using its strong track record and experience in consumer investing, 3i will work alongside the board and management team of Character Group to support continued product range development and growth of this well focused toy business. 

The Character Group plc was formed in 1991 and floated on the full list in 1995, moving to AIM at the end of 2005. The company designs, develops and distributes internationally ranges of toys, games and gifts in 30 countries. The company has a wide range of international brands (including its hugely successful Dr. Who range) which are well known for their prominent position in leading retailers in the UK and Europe.

Alan Mackay, 3i Director commented "This is a powerful combination of an ambitious management team, experienced Board, and a solid strategy for success. 3i looks forward to a close relationship as an actively engaged shareholder, helping the company achieve its vision and reaching the full potential of the business".

Richard King, Executive Chairman, the Character Group said:

"The Directors welcome 3i as investors in the Group. Clearly, their decision to acquire a stake in our business underpins their confidence in our business model going forward."

 "As a Group, trading has continued to be strong as we build up towards the end of our financial year in August as well as for the autumn selling season, which includes Christmas and is very important for the next financial year."

"We will remain focused on improving our operational efficiencies but, more importantly, on our strategy, which is to exploit our in-house capabilities in developing both our own and licensed properties thereby further improving our product portfolio which ultimately will, we believe, be reflected in increased earnings and shareholder value."

This deal follows closely on the footsteps of another 3i deal in this space; the acquisition of entertainment brand management business, Chorion, which owns well known international brands such as Noddy, Mr Men and Agatha Christie. The £110m  Chorion transaction was completed last month.

Notes to editors

3i is a world leader in private equity and venture capital.  We focus on buyouts, growth capital and venture capital and invest across Europe, in the United States and Asia. Our competitive advantage comes from our international network and the strength and breadth of our relationships in business.  These underpin the value that we deliver to our portfolio and to our shareholders. 
 www.3i.com

About The Character Group plc
The Character Group plc designs, develops and distributes toys, games and giftware, principally to the UK although it has an ever increasing exposure to international markets.

Revenues are generated from a mix of product with over 50% designed and developed in-house either under the Group's own brand or under licence with the balance being derived from third party distribution.  Notable product lines are Dr Who, Scooby Doo, Biker Mice from Mars, Peppa Pig, GR8 Gear, Robosapien, Roboraptor and Robopet. For a more comprehensive view of the product portfolio please refer to http://www.character-online.com/

During the first six months of the current financial year (ending 31 August 2006), The Character Group underwent a major reorganisation with the disposal of its Digital Business in February 2006. The structure is now designed to maximise the strength of, and focus on, the core business of Toys, Games and Gifts.www.thecharacter.com
CCT.L  Sector: Media, AIM