BBS Automation acquires ReaLead and closes group refinancing

Following a successful EUR 140 million refinancing, EQT portfolio company BBS Automation steps up its ambitious consolidation strategy and closes its third add-on in one year; ReaLead, a founder-led Chinese automation business with strong growth momentum and complementary customer base.

Headquartered in Munich, Germany, BBS Automation (“BBS”) develops flexible and high-quality automation solutions for complex manufacturing and testing processes. With production sites in Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, the US, China and Malaysia, BBS Automation supports a diverse network of blue-chip customers on a global scale. The EQT Mid Market Europe and EQT Mid Market Asia III funds jointly invested in BBS in May 2018 alongside the company’s founding families to support continued growth, both organically and through add-on acquisitions.

ReaLead is BBS’ third add-on under EQT’s ownership period and follows the acquisition of ANT Solutions, a Polish founder-led provider of digital factory solutions in November 2018 and TEAM (now BBS Winding), a founder-led Italian specialist for coil winding technology for e-engines in May 2019.

The recent EUR 140 million refinancing of BBS’ existing working capital and guarantee facility is set to provide sufficient financial headroom for increased organic growth and financial flexibility for further consolidation of the automation market.

BBS Automation and ReaLead – making use of EQT’s global platform

Founded by Kevin Nie in Kunshan, China, ReaLead is a fast-growing automation solutions provider with strong credentials, technical capabilities and high quality of services. The company has a longstanding track record of providing a diverse range of automation solutions, including die casting parts, electric vehicle parts and the company is one of the early entrants, and an important player, in the fast-growing 5G telecommunication space. With approximately 150 employees and an experienced technical team, ReaLead serves both Western blue chips as well as domestic Chinese customers.

By joining forces, BBS is ideally positioned to accelerate growth in Asia, and in particular, gain access to ReaLead’s Chinese customer base and country-wide manufacturing automation network. Furthermore, ReaLead is expected to enable BBS’ diversification into the Chinese 5G telecommunications space, while leveraging exposure to new potential customers through both BBS’ and EQT’s global platforms.

Josef Wildgruber, CEO of BBS Automation, commented: "The addition of ReaLead is well-aligned with our intention of strengthening our global network and increasing our Chinese presence to continue enabling our customers the best possible automation solutions and service. Kevin and our new Chinese colleagues are energetic and motivated, and we are excited to welcome them to the BBS family.”

Kevin Nie, Founder of ReaLead, added: "We are very excited to join BBS and take this next step in ReaLead’s evolution. This partnership will enable us to leverage on the technical know-how and successful experience of BBS, to improve our quality of offering and enable us to continue to drive value creation for our customers.”

Jerry He, Partner at EQT Partners and Investment Advisor to EQT Mid Market Asia III, concluded: "We are very happy to see that EQT’s dual-fund investment in BBS is off to a very good start with a track record of exciting strategic add-ons and excellent collaboration with the founding partners. This is a great example of how to leverage the strategic advantages of EQT’s global platform, which enables cross-continental teamwork and sharing of local know-how. The acquisition of ReaLead will broaden BBS’ offering, market competitiveness and customer access in the fast-growing Chinese market. Looking ahead, BBS will continue to leverage on the ‘local-with-local’ expertise of both EQT’s European and Asian teams and the global network of EQT Advisors.”

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