Carlyle gives gas detectors a financial injection
American investment groups seem to have developed a taste for Belgian companies. The chemical company Taminco was bought by the investment company Apollo last week, and yesterday it was announced that the Kempen-based gas detection company The Sniffers was taken over by The Carlyle Group. Taminco and The Sniffers both stand out as success stories, having little trouble to find a takeover contender. There is however one crucial difference between the two: Taminco was sold for 1.2 billion euros. The Sniffers is a Balen-based SME with a turnover of 12 million euros. One could ask how a small player like this could find its way onto the radar of a superpower like The Carlyle Group, one of the biggest capital extenders in the world. Quite simply because The Sniffers is a significant player in their niche market, which is the detection of installation leakages in pipeline connections, valves or mechanical seals. Since its establishment in 1991, The Sniffers have grown to become one of the biggest service providers in the field of gas pipeline leak detection in the US. It is also a European market leader and one of the biggest players in the Middle East, with negotiations underway to extend to China and Russia – markets which hardly focus on leak detection. “Wherever there is gas, leaks can occur,” explains Rudy Van Baelen, founder and CEO of the business. “Gas companies are increasingly bound by environmental and safety considerations. They are also becoming more aware of the cost-saving aspects of timeous leak detection at their installations.” During the 20 years that The Sniffers have been active, this SME managed to build up an impressive client portfolio; from Total and Dow Chemical to Exxon. This rapid growth is essential in view of their intention to be the first to enter the Chinese and Russian market. “We want to keep abreast of our rivals,” says Van Baelen. With this rapid growth comes the need for more resources, however. In 2006, the group approached the Belgian venture capital company Creafund for financial assistance and received resources and professionalism. In the autumn of this year they once again sought additional resources, finding the perfect candidate in Carlyle, as they not only offered a financial injection but also an excellent network. If one considers that The Sniffers was established in 1991, it’s quite spectacular to see that today they boast a client base of 200 in 20 countries, and a turnover which trebled during the past four years.