3i Group buys luggage cart maker Smarte Carte in first U.S. infrastructure deal

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3i Group plc has agreed to invest in Smarte Carte International Holdings Inc., a provider of luggage cart systems and airport strollers, for approximately $353 million. The deal marks as the first North American infrastructure investment for the London private equity firm.

Founded in 1967, Smarte Carte designs and manufactures self-serve airport baggage carts, self-storage electronic lockers, commercial strollers, and massage chairs to long-term contract customers in the United States and internationally. The White Bear Lake, Minnesota-based company operates in approximately 2,500 locations more than 140,000 units. Smarte Carte’s average customer relationship is more than 24 years.

“The global travel and leisure market has changed in recent years and now provides more revenue opportunities from outsourced baggage carts and other essential services,” states Rob Collins, managing partner of 3i North American Infrastructure. “Our team looks forward to partnering with management to grow Smarte Carte’s global footprint, especially in Europe where 3i has an established track record in the airport sector through its investments in Belfast City Airport and (through 3i Infrastructure plc) in airport ground-handling equipment company TCR.”

3i is a U.K. investment company targeting investment opportunities across Europe and North America. The PE firm, one of the oldest private equity firms in Europe, is comprised of two complementary businesses consisting of private equity and infrastructure. 3i has roots dating back to 1945.

In October 2016, the firm agreed to sale its debt management business to Investcorp to focus on building its private equity and infrastructure segments. The deal with Investcorp closed in March 2017, the same month the firm established a U.S.-based infrastructure business called North American Infrastructure. 3i’s debt management business previously contributed a significant role in the firm’s operating cash profit and investment returns.

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