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Private Equity Company buys Historic Scuba Kit Manufacturers



Reports this week suggest that Aqua Lung, the company formed by Jaques Cousteau more than 70-years ago and considered to be the largest scuba diving kit manufacturer in the world, was sold at the end of last year for €200 million - far less than rumoured.

The Business of Diving News reported this week that private equity firm Montagu bought the historic business for half the price that the vast French industrial gas giant Air Liquide was said to have asked for Aqua Lung last summer when it put it up for sale.

Aqua Lung dates back to the 1940s when French naval commander Cousteau, working with an Air Liquide engineer called Emile Gagnan, invented a pressure regulator that allowed compressed air in tanks to be breathed by divers.

The duo started a company in 1946 called La Spirotechnique that held the patent for the invention. Cousteau and Gagnan called their product Aqua Lung to help sales in English-speaking countries, although the name of the company wasn’t officially changed until the turn of this century.

Based in Carros, southern France, Aqua Lung has manufacturing sites in six countries including the Mexico and the US, with a fifth of its diving business related to the military, according to Air Liquide. It has contracts with 55 armies and navies around the world.

Aqua Lung has a presence in more than 90 countries and employs about a 1,000 people. In 2015 it turned over more than €200 million.  It owns the British-based diving equipment company Apeks.

Air Liquide said it had sold Aqua Lung - which it had controlled since the company was formed - as it was not core business.

Montagu Private Equity is one of Europe’s leading private equity firms. Founded in 1968 it has assets under management of just over €5 billion.

Earlier this week is was reported that PADI - the world’s largest scuba training agency - was sold for $700 million to a private equity company.



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