First of all, let me say Happy New Year to you all – I hope that the atrocious weather hasn’t meant that 2014 has been too much of a (non-alcohol related) headache so far. As always, the Christmas break meant that there was a flurry of activity as people rushed to get transactions closed before the big day followed by a bit of a pause post-turkey before things kicked off again in earnest after the new year.
The year ended with a raft of rumours about some major deals and only time will tell if they will come to fruition or if they were just the result of journos being a bit short of material. First up it was rumoured that Liberty Global (who acquired Virgin Media in June last year) would be submitting a bid for Cable & Wireless Communications (not to be confused with Cable & Wireless Worldwide which Vodafone bagged back in July 2012). This rumour was swiftly denied by the team at Liberty Global although it does look to be a decent fit for Liberty which is building a portfolio of cable companies worldwide. A few days later came the rumour that Vodafone would bid for BskyB, partly to defend itself against the possibility of a takeover bid (from AT&T). Again not a bad shout for Vodafone representing, as it does, the opportunity for a quad-play offering and a use for the cash from the disposal of the Verizon Wireless stake. Rumours also continue to swirl around Telecity regarding PE interest although it would probably be more surprising if there weren’t PE interest in Telecity which IPO’d in 2007.
Some of our Private Equity friends were working up to the wire last year including the ever-busy team at LDC who announced the £17.8m MBO of GMG Property Services, a provider of software to the estate agency market in the UK. The deal marks an exit for the Guardian Media Group and will allow the team, led by Mark Goddard, to accelerate organic growth as well as to execute a buy-and-build strategy.
And finally a couple of strategic deals to round things up. At the end of 2012 Clearwater sold SaaS model business Exentra, which focused on tachograph analysis technology, to Canadian business Descartes Systems Inc. and just before Christmas the group announced another UK deal – paying £5.1m for Impatex Freight Software, a provider of electronic customs filing and freight forwarding solutions thereby building its presence in the region as well as its European customs solution stack. And finally finally SimplyBiz, a provider of compliance and business support services to financial advisers, announced the acquisition of a majority stake in Staffcare, a provider of flexible benefits and auto-enrolment software. Founder and CEO of Staffcare, Phil Hollingdale, commented: “We are delighted with the acquisition by SimplyBiz. Their business, as well as ours, is built on a solid understanding of the market and the future opportunities that exist. SimplyBiz provides services to over 5000 advisers, many of whom will want to provide Auto-Enrolment solutions to their client base. With the financial backing of SimplyBiz and its understanding of regulation, we will be able to continue to invest in our products and services for our existing clients as well as provide solutions for the wider advisory market.”