Support Services sector comment – July 2011


Clearwater’s Support Services team has advised the shareholders of Alter Technology Group (‘ATG’) on the disposal of its three trading subsidiaries to TUV Nord International GmBH (‘TUV’).

This deal continues the high volume of overseas buyers seen by Clearwater which is running at 80% of recently closed trade sales. The ATG subsidiaries, which have a combined turnover of circa €60m, are the European leaders in the procurement, testing and inspection services to the electronics, aerospace and defence markets. The subsidiaries are located in Spain, France and Italy. Root Capital and Grupo Tecnologica, a private Spanish investment vehicle, created the ATG group in a 2006 merger of its respective testing and inspection businesses.testing and inspection businesses.

Business services giant Capita’s pace for deals sees no signs of slowing down following the acquisition of customer care and BPO firm, Ventura from Next plc. Ventura manages more than 50 million customer contacts and brings with it an enviable list of clients. These include Tesco, British Gas, Sky, former parent Next, and the DWP, one of its largest customers and a hot space right now as the government takes steps to address the UK’s pension issues. The acquisition, Capita’s largest to date in terms of employees comes as no real surprise as it allows Capita to benefit from the continued opportunities in central government as well as the private sector. The £65m buy comes just weeks after Capita bought Bristol based, Call Centre Technology and follows Serco’s recent acquisition of The Listening Company, the UK based outsourced customer contact centre and Mumbai based outsourcing company Intelenet. Other recent deals in the sector include; Teleperfomance’s £35m acquisition of Scottish call centre operator, BeCogent and Xchanging plc’s acquisition of Cambridge Solutions’s Australian and Indian businesses (see below).

So can we expect to see a wave of further consolidation in the market? The answer is almost certainty yes as key players look to strengthen their position, seek to provide end-to end capabilities and broaden their service portfolios. Activity is also set to be truly global as the once dominant Indian BPO giants face stiff competition from emerging markets such as Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Russia. In further blows to the Indian BPO firms, Spanish owned Santander announced this week that it is returning its Indian call centres to Britain following a programme to improve its services, and telecommunications company, New Call Telecom has also announced plans to move its offshore call centres from Mumbai to Burnley because of increasing salaries in India.


Global business processor Xchanging plc acquires Cambridge Solutions Ltd’s Australian workers’ compensation business, Cambridge Integrated Services Victoria PTY Ltd and its Indian business process outsourcing business. Total consideration for the assets is approximately £83m. The acquisition is in line with Xchanging’s strategy of broadening its international reach and the enhancement of its IT and processing capabilities.

Aviva sells its roadside rescue business RAC to private equity firm Carlyle for £1bn. The headline price tag is 17x last years net earnings, and a greater value than that paid by Aviva five years ago. The sale is consistent with Aviva’s strategic focus on insurance and savings businesses .The insurer had already sold several parts of the company, including Auto Windscreens and the British School of Motoring (BSM) which were acquired by German restructuring specialist Arques Industries for undisclosed sums in late 2008 and early 2009.

Wates Group expands into maintenance with the acquisition of Linbrook Services for an undisclosed sum. Enfield-based Linbrook has contracts covering more than 100,000 properties, predominantly in London and the Home Counties, and it employs approximately 450 employees. Linbrook will become a division of Wates Living Space, which currently builds or refurbishes approximately 30,000 homes a year on more than 73 affordable housing framework agreements. The acquisition puts Wates “at the forefront of the UK’s affordable housing market”, bolting on maintenance capability to its construction experience.

UK engineering giant WS Atkins acquires oil and gas business from Finland based Poyry for €17.25 million. The deal will see Poyry’s offices in Scotland, Norway and Australia integrated with Atkins’ existing bases in the UK, Europe, Middle East and North America and provides increased access to the significant gas developments and Liquefied Natural Gas market in Western Australia and Europe. The acquisition follows the purchase of the Technical Services Scotland group from RWE npower in March which added strength to Atkins’ capability in power generation.

Campbell Brothers Limited acquires global testing services provider Stewart Holdings Group for an enterprise value of £146million. UK-based Stewart Group provides geochemical, metallurgical and inspection services to the mining and processing industries worldwide. It has 26 laboratories and offices in North America, Africa, Asia and Europe. The company will be integrated into the mineral s division of ALS Group, a division of Campbell Brothers. The acquisition will provide ALS with the opportunity to expand its existing geochemical services into new and emerging geographies.

Private equity firm LDC invests an undisclosed sum for a significant shareholding in national driver and logistics recruiter Driver Hire from Spirit Capital. Bradford based Driver Hire operates nationally through a 100-strong network of offices, predominantly owned and operated by franchisees. It services around 5,000 corporate customers with fully compliant LGV, van, fork lift truck and fleet car drivers, warehouse operatives and professional logistics managers on both a short-term and long-term basis. It is now one of the UK’s leading providers of Driver CPC training. Following the investment the company has confirmed it is eyeing up further growth.

Aim listed IT staffing provider Interquest acquires Contract Connections (CCL) in a deal worth £4.6 million. London based CCL supplies technology staffing to the legal sector and has 16 branded divisions covering industries including the financial markets, public sector, insurance, pharmaceuticals, media and analytics. CCL reported revenues of £10 million for the year to end 31 May 2011 and profit before tax of £750,000. The acquisition is in line with Interquest’s strategy to strengthen its legal sector services as well as providing additional geographical reach.

Aim listed professional services and recruitment firm ReThink acquires Irish firm Berkley Recruitment. Berkley serves Europe and the Asia-Pacific, Australia and China markets. It has offices in Dublin, Cork and Singapore. The company specialises in the recruitment of permanent and contract staff for the pharmaceutical and life sciences, technology and commercial sectors, and consultancy in the engineering sector. In 2010 it turned over £4.9m and made pre-tax profits of £361,000. The acquisition is in line with ReThink’s strategy of expanding into the Far Eastern markets.

NASDAQ listed Taleo Corporation, the talent management solutions provider acquires Jobpartners for c. €26 million. Based in the UK, Jobpartners has 68 clients, including 16 of the Global 500, who deploy its suite of talent management products across 50 countries and 28 languages. Like Taleo, Jobpartners offers cloud-based software for human resources. Its customers include Carrefour, Deutsche Post DHL, Nationwide, Nike EMEA, Rabobank and Xerox, bringing scale to Taleo’s business on an international level.

Lok’n Store acquires UK self storage company Saracen Datastore for £4million. Saracen has four sites across the South East of England providing over 100,000 sq.ft. of offsite records storage and document archiving. For the year ended 31 December 2010, Saracen achieved turnover of £1.6m. and adjusted EBITDA of £0.4m. UK food services giant, Compass Group plc acquires Hong Kong catering firm, Shing Hin Catering Group for an undisclosed sum. The deal strengthens Compass’ operations in the education food services sector.