The Canadian owner of Center Parcs UK, the chain of upmarket holiday villages, is preparing the ground for a £3bn sale or stock market listing.
Daily Week News has learnt that Brookfield Property Partners, which is a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, is drawing up plans to appoint advisers to conduct a strategic review of the business.
The move will put one of Britain’s best-known holiday resort operators in play even as the UK economy faces a period of Brexit-related uncertainty.
Center Parcs’ sites are positioned as premium family holiday destinations, offering activities including watersports and horse riding, as well as spa packages.
Collectively, its British sites host millions of guests each year.
City sources said on Tuesday that neither Brookfield nor Center Parcs’ board had made firm decisions about the timing of any process, with both a sale or initial public offering expected to considered by them during the coming months.
Any transaction would not take place until well into 2020 at the earliest, and a review of options could result in Brookfield deciding to retain ownership of the business for longer.
One insider said the opening of Center Parcs’ first location in Ireland – at Longford Forest – in July had been a critical milestone for the company to pass before the process of hiring bankers could commence.
The company opened its first UK site at Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire in 1987.
Since then it has opened four more: at Elveden Forest in Suffolk; Longleat Forest in Wiltshire; Whinfell Forest in Cumbria; and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire.
Center Parcs has been a public company in the past, being floated on London’s junior AIM market in 2003 before moving to a main market listing two years later.
It was then taken over by Blackstone, the private equity firm, in 2006, before being sold to Brookfield in 2015 in a deal reported to have been worth £2.4bn.
Banking sources said the business was likely to be worth closer to £3bn now based on its financial performance.
In its most recent public update, Center Parcs UK reported pre-tax profit of £87.5m, up from £75.7m in 2016-17.
The company also reported a modest rise in occupancy, to 97.6%, underlining the continuing popularity of its resorts among Britons.
Banking sources said they expected a number of private equity firms, pension funds and other long-term investors to examine bids for the business.
Center Parcs’ UK and Ireland operations are owned separately to the European business that also trades under the brand.
The Center Parcs name dates back to 1968, when the first village opened in the Netherlands.
Run by Martin Dalby, its chief executive for the last 20 years, Center Parcs’ shareholders have received hundreds of millions of pounds in dividends since Brookfield bought the business.
According to the latest accounts, Mr Dalby and other members of the UK management team own just under 0.6% of the company.
Brookfield and Center Parcs both declined to comment.