APRIL UPDATE: Latest business deals in the South East Midlands

12 May 2015

The South East Midlands region displayed an extremely strong performance during April 2015, which saw a total of 17 corporate finance deals involving companies based in the region. This represents a rise of 89% over the nine deals completed in March.

The largest deal saw US logistics giant XPO Logistics sign an agreement to acquire a 67 per cent shareholding in Norbert Dentressangle, also a significant force in the global logistics market. The deal is valued at £2.31bn.

Norbert Dentressangle is a French-based company, has its UK headquarters in Northampton, and employs more than 42,350 staff across 662 locations worldwide.

Meanwhile, also in the logistics sector, Northampton-based Crisis Courier Solutions Ltd, was snapped up by CitySprint (UK) Group Ltd, a company backed by private equity firm Dunedin Capital Partners.

In the real estate sector Aberdeen Property Trust acquired a retail park in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, comprising of 86,764 sq ft of fully pre-let ground floor retail space, from LXB Retail Properties Plc, for an estimated £80m.

The Crown Estate agreed to acquire Rushden Lakes, which owns and operates a 350,000 sq ft shopping and leisure complex in Rushden, Northamptonshire, from LXB for an estimated £70m.

Kier Group Plc, the Bedford-based provider of commercial and residential property construction and support services, was also involved in two investments in April.

Firstly, the group announced that it had held preliminary discussions ahead of the potential £265m acquisition of MRBL Ltd, the holding company of the Mouchel group of companies, which provides design, managerial, engineering and operational services.

Secondly, Kier Living Ltd, a subsidiary of Kier Plc that provides commercial and residential property construction and support services, acquired certain assets of Southdale Holdings Ltd, a Halifax-based construction business, out of administration.

In the Financial Services sector, Luton-based NPA Insurance Broking Group Ltd was acquired by Integro Insurance Brokers Holdings Ltd, a provider of insurance brokerage and risk management services.

Meanwhile, VioVet Ltd, a Luton-based business that sells a range of pet supplies, attracted international interest when it was bought by Canadian firm Pethealth Inc, a provider of accident and illness insurance for dogs and cats.

In another deal that demonstrates that businesses within the South East Midlands geography are well positioned on the global map, Blackboard Inc, a Washington DC provider of enterprise software and related services to the education industry, acquired Remote-Learner UK Ltd, which, based in Banbury, has created an e-learning platform, from parent company Remote-Learner Net Inc.

The acquisition will allow Blackboard to increase the range of its services and solutions to institutions and business that use Moodle, one of the most widely-used learning management systems in the world.

Elsewhere, Personal Group Holdings Plc, a Milton Keynes-based provider of employee benefits and employee-related products, acquired Daventry’s shebang Technologies Group Ltd, a wholesale distributor of mobile products and solutions, for a total of £1.3m.

In the Healthcare services arena, Carewatch Care Services Ltd, a Milton Keynes-based provider of home-based care and support services, acquired Jane Bowen Nursing Services Ltd, also located in Milton Keynes, which provides care services for the elderly.

In the Energy sector, Guernsey-based NextEnergy Solar Fund Ltd announced its intention to acquire the special purpose vehicle which owns the 33.7MWp Glebe Farm Solar Power Plant in Podington, Bedfordshire, for an estimated £40m.

In the Retail market, House of Vantage Ltd, located in Fleckney, Leicestershire, which sells clothes and accessories for men and women, acquired Bakeway Ltd, Corby, which produces and retails bakeware equipment and ingredients, out of administration.

In the Business Services arena, Towcester-based LTF Design & Marketing Ltd, (doing business as ‘look, touch and feel’) acquired Surefire Excellence Ltd, a provider of marketing and sales strategy solutions in Milton Keynes.

Meanwhile, the Honda Formula One team announced that it is coming to Milton Keynes, with the creation of a new garage. The deal has seen the F1 team agree a deal with NL Property to build a new Research and Development facility at Grampian Gate, Winterhill.

Honda currently supply engines for the McLaren Formula One team and this new facility will help it achieve its aim of supplying further Formula One teams in the future. The move is expected to create up to 65 jobs by 2018.

Probably the most notable feature of the South East Midlands corporate finance market in April was the activity of private equity firms, both on the buy and sell side of the table.

In the most high profile transaction, South African investment firm Brait, made an offer to purchase Milton Keynes-based Virgin Active Ltd, which operates health and fitness clubs. Under the terms of the deal, Brait has offered to pay £682m (approximately $1bn) in return for an 80% stake in the company.

In another buyout, Shanghai-based Bright Food (Group) Co Ltd, a company with interests in the manufacture of agricultural products and food processing services, acquired the remaining 40% it did not already own in Weetabix Ltd, the Kettering-based manufacturer of breakfast cereals. The transaction values Weetabix at approximately £1.28bn, including debt.

Finally in the venture capital space, brain training startup, Peak raised $7m in a round of funding led by Swedish investment firm Creandum, with participation from existing investors DN Capital, London Venture Partners and Qualcomm Ventures. The total raised by Peak to date stands at $10m. Peak will use the additional capital to grow its team of neuroscientists and engineers.

The striking upturn in deal activity within the South East Midlands in April testifies to the sheer diversity of types of business across the region. It also highlights their growth potential and subsequent attractiveness to large international buyers.