Grant Thornton’s corporate finance team secured three deals across the UK. The company oversaw the sale of Asset Plus to Johnson Controls in the built environment sector; while also leading the sale of Davidson-Roberts to Family First Nursery Group.
Specializing in decarbonisation, Hampshire-based Asset Plus offers sustainability savings to several NHS organisations, local authorities and educational establishments. He provides strategic support and project management for energy efficiency measures in complex built environments. In just six years of operation, the business has reached a turnover of £30 million.
Listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Johnson Controls has recently sought to establish a presence in the UK public sector. This has earned it supplier appointment under five key procurement frameworks, including the Re:Fit program and the Carbon and Energy Fund (CEF), while the NHS recently selected Johnson Controls for its framework agreement national for providing smart building solutions using the Internet of Things (IoT).
Operating in this space, the acquisition of Asset Plus complements Johnson Controls’ presence in the UK, providing growth opportunities for both companies. Its services will further enable Johnson Controls to provide a turnkey net zero offering to all of our UK customers, across all industries.
The deal was backed by Grant Thornton. The firm’s UK corporate finance team helped Asset Plus to get the “best valuation” of its business, with managing director and co-founder Paul Burnett saying that “the team’s support and guidance during the process transactions were exceptional”.
Usman Malik, M&A Partner and Head of Commercial Services at Grant Thornton UK, added: “Asset Plus has generated a lot of interest when looking for potential buyers, due to the rapid and impressive growth of the companies. The built environment services market is one where the Grant Thornton team continues to be very active globally. Market resilience, fueled by long-term contracts, is attractive to international investors, so we expect to see continued activity in this space in the second half of the year.
The sale of Asset Plus marks another completed transaction in an active area of the built environment for Grant Thornton’s corporate finance team. Recently he advised the sale of Incentive FM to Atalian Servest, while in early 2022 he also assisted in the sale of ISS Damage Control and Total Security Solutions.
Davidson-Roberts + Family First Nursery Group
Founded in 2006 in Cambridgeshire, Davidson-Roberts has acquired nine other nurseries in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Several of its crèches offer children forest school sessions, which foster a connection with the natural world.
The company’s unique offering has caught the eye of Family First Nursery Group (FFNG), as the private equity-backed company seeks to expand its own services. Backed by August Equity, FFNG aims to become one of the UK’s leading childcare providers, with a series of six merger and acquisition deals pushing it towards a target of reaching 80 sites by the end of this year.
As the business becomes the latest of these purchases, Jane Roberts, Founder of Davidson-Roberts, said: “Davidson-Roberts’ successful growth journey over the past 15 years is due to passion for the industry, the whole team. . I loved the experience, leading the growth of the business, and now look forward to this exciting next chapter. Family First Nursery Group is a company that shares our own values and is ready to take Davidson-Roberts and his team to the next level.
FFNG is led by President Andy Morris, who has extensive experience in growing children’s nursery groups. Previous ventures saw him bring Asquith Nurseries to 92 nurseries before selling to Bright Horizons, and grow OAC Childcare Group in Australia from 24 nurseries to 79. The latest move will see Davidson-Roberts help FFNG expand into belts suburbs, metropolitan cities and areas of population growth.
Grant Thornton UK LLP’s corporate finance team advised Davidson-Roberts on the sale. Partner Mike Tillson, Principal Andrew Frame Manager and Elizabeth MacGowan led the project, working closely with Julie Hughes, a partner at Cripps specializing in early childhood transactions, who together with her team managed the legal aspects of the sale. Alongside its M&A support, Grant Thornton’s tax team also assisted in the complex spin-off of properties from the operating company as part of the transaction, before its sales transaction tax team advised the implementation of the demerger before the first round offers, in order to minimize the tax costs and to provide an effective solution to the shareholders.
Over the past year, there has been a combination of a fragmented market, increased regulations and a new normal in flexible working, all leading to record levels of business activity in the nursery sector. According to Andrew Frame, private equity backed groups continue to be very interested in this growth.
The Corporate Finance Director added: “Our team has advised on a number of transactions across all service lines, and we only expect that business to continue. During the sale process, we generated considerable interest in Davidson-Roberts from domestic and international private equity and trade buyers, resulting in an excellent result for our client and a tremendous home for the company in Family First.