Car safety seats-to-pushchairs firm Britax Childcare broke free from its Warwick-based parent company yesterday after being sold in a deal valued at £230 million.

The Andover-based business, which was one of three divisions at Britax International, has been acquired by The Carlyle Group following an auction that attracted strong interest from a number of other private equity groups.

US-based Carlyle said it would work closely with the present management team at a company that accounts for about 40 per cent of the German and UK markets as well as 60 per cent in Australia and 13 per cent in the United States.

With brands including Romer and Safe n Sound, Britax Childcare generated revenues of £120 million in


It was put on the market earlier this year by Britax International, which is backed by the equity finance arm of Royal Bank of Scotland following a delisting from the London Stock Exchange in

2001. Britax also operates an aircraft interiors division and a public safety arm.

Britax International chairman Alan Bowkett said it would use the proceeds of the sale to reduce debt and develop other parts of its business.

He added: "The childcare division has been an excellent business for us and has developed strongly over the last few years."

Britax Childcare employs about 900 people at operations worldwide, of which about 200 are in the UK.

The deal price is at the top end of expectations after a report in July said ABN Amro Capital, Montagu, PPM and 3i were all understood to have made first-round bids, with the offers worth between £200 million and £230 million.

As well as its strong market position, Britax is helped by high barriers to new entrants as the market is governed by tough regulatory standards.

In recent months, baby care products firm Avent has been sold for about £300 million to Charterhouse while Toys R Us was sold to private equity bidders for almost £4 billion.