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Exclusive: Road-paint supplier Ennis-Flint steered toward sale

By David Toll and Steve Gelsi

NEW YORK, Nov 1 (Buyouts Magazine) - Ennis-Flint, a supplier of road paint used to make double-yellow stripes along the middle of roads, has recently been on the block in a deal that could exceed $575 million in enterprise value, according to two sources familiar with the auction.

Harris Williams & Co, a Richmond, Va.-based investment bank, was tapped to represent the seller.

The Dallas and Thomasville, N.C.-based Ennis-Flint, which sells a variety of products related to traffic safety, describes itself as the world's largest maker and supplier of pavement markings.

It was created last year through the combination of two companies, Ennis Paint Inc and Flint Trading Inc, both owned by Dallas-based Brazos Private Equity Partners LLC.

In a press release announcing the early 2012 deal, Brazos Private Equity Partners put the enterprise value of the combined company at $575 million. Credit Suisse Group AG arranged a $405 million credit facility to finance the transaction.

Executives at Brazos Private Equity Partners, Ennis-Flint or Harris Williams were not available for comment. It is not clear where the company is in the auction process, or if the company is still for sale, or whether Harris Williams is the only sell-side adviser.

At the time of its merger with Flint Trading Inc, the combined company had 14 manufacturing facilities located in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe, and employed more than 90 sales people. Those continuing to have equity stakes in the company alongside Brazos Private Equity Partners were the Anderson family, which founded Ennis Paint; Steve Vetter, president and CEO of Ennis-Flint; and Matt Soule, CFO.

A source close to Brazos Private Equity Partners said the deal has been viewed as a "complete home run" for the firm, with a lot of the credit going to Vetter. The company, whose customers include contractors working on highways and airport runways, likely benefited from the mini-boom in U.S. infrastructure spending following the financial crisis.

Brazos Private Equity Partners is known for buying family-owned businesses in the southwestern United States. The firm tends to buy companies with enterprise values ranging from $50 million to $500 million in such industries as manufacturing, consumer products, healthcare, distribution and business services.

It originally invested in Ennis Paint in April 2007, while it acquired Flint Trading just over three years later before combining the two companies last year.

Among other recent exits, Brazos Private Equity Partners this spring announced the sale of Strategic Equipment and Supply Corp, a supplier of foodservice equipment and supplies, to TriMark USA, a portfolio company of Audax Group, for an undisclosed price; in April 2012 the firm announced the sale of Tri-Northern Holdings Inc, a distributor of electronic security products, to Audax Group.

Founded in 1999 by Randall Fojtasek and Jeff Fronterhouse, Brazos Private Equity Partners manages some $1.4 billion in total. The firm closed its third fund with $715 million in commitments in 2008. Its second fund, vintage 2005, closed at $400 million, and its debut fund, vintage 2000, closed at $250 million.

As of March 31, backer New York State Common Retirement Fund was showing its commitment to Brazos Equity Fund 1-B LP generating a 1.8x investment multiple; its commitment to the successor fund was underwater at the time. Backer Sacramento Private Equity Partners was showing its commitment to the 2008 fund generating a 1.2x investment multiple and 10.4 percent net IRR as of March 31.

Backers of Brazos Private Equity Partners funds have included Aetna Inc , Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co and Robeco Investment Management, according to T-1 Banker, a product of Thomson Reuters, publisher of Buyouts.

(Buyouts Magazine is a Thomson Reuters publication. Editor: david.toll@thomsonreuters.com ; www.buyoutsnews.com)

(Reporting by David Toll and Steve Gelsi; Editing by Ciara Linnane)

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