YFM backs Frescobol Carioca

26 March 2019

YFM Equity Partners supports significant investment into Frescobol Carioca, the luxury men’s resort wear and lifestyle brand

Funds advised and managed by YFM Equity Partners (“YFM”), the specialist private equity fund manager have backed a significant investment into Frescobol Carioca Limited (“Frescobol”).

YFM’s investment comes from its two advised VCTs, British Smaller Companies VCT plc and British Smaller Companies VCT2 plc.

Founded in 2013 as the brainchild of friends Harry Brantly and Max Leese, Frescobol’s roots lie in their Brazilian heritage and travel experiences which are reflected in a range of luxury men’s swimming trunks and resort wear that references and brings to life the Rio beach lifestyle.  Growth in recent years has been rapid, now with over 200 stockists in the world’s most exclusive boutiques including Harrods, Mr Porter, Matches & the One & Only resorts, bespoke collaborations with major luxury resort operators such as Aman Resorts, three retail locations and growing online sales to a global customer base.

YFM’s funds will be used to support the continued growth of the business, especially focussing on furthering the global customer base, developing ecommerce opportunities and investing in additional resource to build on the brand’s growing reputation.

Charlie Robinson and Adam Hart led the investment for YFM.  Adam Hart commented:

“Harry and Max have done a fantastic job in building a leading brand in the sector from a standing start in a very short space of time.  Their vision for the business is exciting and we look forward to bringing our experience in supporting young fast growth companies to deliver the next phase of development of the company.  We are particularly attracted by the global appeal of the products and believe Frescobol taps into an increasing interest in luxury travel and lifestyle.  We are excited to be part of the Frescobol team.”

Harry Brantly, co-founder of Frescobol, added:

“Max and I are delighted to have YFM on board for this next stage in our growth. Their track record in supporting SMEs is stellar and throughout the process we have felt a strong sense of collaboration and genuine desire to do what is best for the future of the brand. We look forward to sharing the journey with YFM with particular thanks to our YFM team Charlie Robinson, Paul Cannings and Adam Hart.”

YFM’s legal advice was provided by Nina Searle at TLT LLP, Digital Due Diligence by Becky Jasper of more2, and Organisational Review by Anna Cornwallis of Stratton HR.

Andrew Jakins and James Black of Highstead acted as financial advisors to Frescobol Carioca, and Patrick Martin of PTM Law provided legal advice.


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International expansion – buy it, or build it?

05 March 2019

Jamie Roberts
Partner, YFM Equity Partners

Private Equity houses invest across most sectors and industries, and at different stages of business life cycles.  The one thing that all the businesses invested in by Private Equity will have in common is they are run by ambitious management teams with strong plans to deliver growth.  That growth will often include international expansion.  Perhaps that isn’t surprising given that a 2018 Mckinsey report suggests that cross border commerce is going to double to $4bn over the next 2 years as the world gets more connected through technology and movement gets cheaper and more efficient.

A lot of time will be spent by Private Equity investors working on international growth plans with their investee companies – and the biggest debate will be whether to buy into a new territory with an acquisition, or whether to  take the time to build it from scratch.  As you would expect there is not a one size fits all answer, it will often depend on the business, where it wants to expand, cultures, customers, capex requirements etc etc.

A classic example of this buy or build decision was made by GTK.  In 2013 YFM led the MBO of a cable manufacturing business in Basingstoke.  The business made around 1/3 of its cables on site in the UK and outsourced 2/3 to the Far East.  When YFM invested the strategy was to support the team to continue their organic growth through growing the customer base, doubling the capacity of the Basingstoke site and growing the existing Far Eastern relationships.    By 2016 it became clear that GTK was missing out on a lot of work from existing customers who wanted a lower price than could be delivered from a UK facility but did not want the long shipping times and IP issues of their designs being sent to Far Eastern manufacturers.  GTK therefore looked for a near shoring solution and Romania was the natural place to go due to geographic position, business friendly regulations and infrastructure.   We knew that potential acquirers of GTK would value the business more highly if there was a higher percentage of in-house manufacturing vs outsourcing, so we began a project to explore whether it would be better to buy an existing manufacturer or build something from scratch.

It was a tough decision. Having explored both options in detail we concluded with the team that given the availability of property and skilled work force it would be cleaner to build a facility from scratch.  Identifying a local business agent was key.  They helped to source a site and work through the red tape, they also helped with recruitment and found a great facility manager.  The site was operational within 6 months and it broke even within 12 months with over a dozen staff all sourced from the local town.

As with many fast-growing business in the UK, international expansion is going to be key to their success. Many businesses will face this classic buy it or build it decision.  For GTK, building from scratch turned out to be the right decision.  When GTK was acquired by Volex Plc late last year one of the key attractions was the double-digit percentage growth in UK manufacturing and the in-house Romania site which is on track to double capacity in the next 12 months.

Private Equity investors will always work with their investee companies to determine the best option for each company to address the best way to achieve international expansion.


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ACC acquires global aviation consultancy Aerotask

28 February 2019

YFM backed ACC Aviation, acquires global aviation consultancy Aerotask and is recognised in the Sunday Times as one of the UK’s fastest growing international sales businesses 

To support ACC’s ongoing expansion into Asia, Africa and the US the group has acquired the Dubai based aviation consultancy Aerotask.  The acquisition will complement the existing ACC capabilities across ACMI leasing, aircraft charter and the aircraft seats aftermarket bringing additional customer and geographic diversification, whilst also adding asset management and advisory expertise.

ACC CEO, Phil Mathews, comments: “The incorporation of Aerotask as part of the ACC Aviation Group represents a significant milestone in the journeys of both organisations. Aerotask reinforces our presence within the Middle East, expanding our existing revenue lines, grow our customer base and allowing us to provide a market-leading end-to-end service offering to our global airline partners.  We are also very proud to have been ranked as one of the fastest growing companies in the country – it is a fantastic achievement and a testament to the hard work of everyone at ACC and the support YFM have given the business since the management buyout in 2014.”

Aerotask MD, Rob Watts, comments “This exciting new chapter as part of the ACC Aviation Group provides a foundation upon which to accelerate the growth of our business. We look forward to working with Phil, his team and YFM as we realise the full value of joining this truly global organisation.”

ACC Aviation Group has also been ranked as 127th in the 10th annual Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200. Phil Mathews, CEO, commented: “This is a fantastic achievement and a testament to the hard work of everyone at ACC. We have opened new offices in Asia and North America in the last 12 months as we continue the expansion of our global footprint” Jamie Roberts, who led the investment for YFM and sits on the ACC board commented: “The ACC team have done a great job since we invested four years ago and we look forward to supporting the team to deliver their ambitious growth plans.”

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A management team that understands the commercial model is essential

YFM’s Partner, Charlie Robinson, was recently asked to participate by BDO in their blog on “Where the real value lies between Sales and Technology?”, giving his views on a crucial subject for many of the businesses that private equity investors work with.  Key themes Investors look for include:

  • clarity over the core value proposition of the business and an understanding of value derived by customers from the technology;
  • an appreciation for the challenge of scaling up commercially, and openness to external input and advice;
  • the beginnings of a ‘product management’ mindset in the business to ensure decisions around technology take commercial considerations into account.

You can read the full article here or Charlie’s contribution below:

‘This is a hugely relevant and important topic for us as investors, especially in terms of the stage at which we get involved with companies. We only tend to work with businesses that have already established some meaningful sales traction in financial terms, so they’ve done the hard yards of proving the technology and getting beyond proof of concept.

‘One of the hardest things for us to assess is always: how good is the sales engine of a business? So we ask: Does the business have a very clear view on their proposition and where the value sits for their customers? Can they articulate that vision to people who, like us, aren’t living their business day in day out, in a way that can give us confidence once we invest? And, given, that most of the time our investment in these kind of companies is to help them scale up, which normally means recruitment of resource, we also need to know: Is there the infrastructure and the strength in depth in the business to start delivering growth when we flip the switch? Or is there going to be more work required to refine the go-to-market and be effectively patient to give people time to deliver?

‘This whole piece has become more and more important to us over time, because you can’t afford to spend too long waiting for a business to get its value proposition right and develop in a new market or even in an existing market place. If the founder or management team struggles to make the business case clear for their customers, if they’re too technology-centric and not customer-centric, then that’s an area that we’d want to look at very closely, and we would need to work out if that can be fixed. Even in a high-growth tech business, the technology is not enough. A management team that understands how to drive revenues and how the commercial model works is essential.

‘The classic scenario you see is where a product gets over-engineered because it’s what the first customer says they want or because it’s what the founder had in mind as a vision, but the business neglects to adapt to changing market demands or needs. It’s so important with software and technology assets that you understand what difference your offering is going to make for the user – what the use case is, what the return on investment is, what customers’ purchasing drivers are, why they’re going to buy it, how long they’re going to use it for and so on. Because if you haven’t got all that in mind, you’re very likely to take on external investment and continue to develop the product in a way that the market may not require.

‘We increasingly look for what I would call product management skill sets within the business, or at least a recognition that they might be required. By product management, I mean the interface between the front-end sales & marketing side of the company and the research & development side, to make sure that you are developing your product in a way that meet the needs of the customer and make the best use of your resources.’

‘To support businesses here, we use a variety of measures, such as interims or consultants that can go in and assess the state of affairs. We’ll also recruit senior sales resource into the business on an informed basis. We look to bring in external expertise wherever possible because moving the needle with B2B sales is hard. Sometimes you just need someone who really understands the base disciplines of the sales pipeline, the rigor around how you manage a sales team to make sure that you’re getting the most out of them, and the quality of opportunities that you’re looking to progress.

‘So, from our perspective, a big part of the attractiveness of a business is a sense that the team has given some thought to commercialising their offering, and to the back-end of how they would actually operationalise the selling. These things can often be fixed, and our capital is there to help businesses do that and develop their proposition further. But we do look for a recognition in the business that this is an area they need help with. And that’s positive for us because we can do something about that. We can’t do a lot about the founder who sees themselves as the best and only salesperson for the rest of the company’s life because that just won’t scale.’


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YFM’s 2018: £30m invested and 5 exits in £600m of deals

Dave Hall
Managing Director, YFM Equity Partners

What next?

2018 somewhat confounded our predictions. We sold five investments to a mixture of overseas and private equity supported buyers, with one making for us a record-breaking Enterprise Value in excess of £350m delivering a 25x return.

Investment rates were also strong with over £30 million invested throughout the UK including 7 new investments in markets ranging from augmented reality and film production to fire security and infrastructure services.

We had predicted a year where Brexit and general uncertainty about slowing international growth might put a cloud over events and perhaps dampen investment appetites. So clearly, we need to replicate that prediction for this coming year and the inevitable strong portfolio performance and diverse investment range will inevitably follow.

Is there still buyer appetite?
Eamon Nolan, who had a large hand in last year’s 25x return looking at 2019 said “Well, we have another five prospective disposals being lined up”. He added “There’s a broad cross-section of industries represented in these five investments which gives us a good understanding of the similarities and differences in outlook from different sectors. Whilst it is early days the initial view from those disposals that are most advanced suggests there remains broad international interest ranging from US to Asia in the portfolio. Those of our businesses with geographically diverse customer bases or premium names in their customer base seem to have a more global appeal. UK mid-market Private Equity still seems to be very liquid and are looking to invest directly and through their portfolios which is great news when we are looking to dispose”.

Jamie Roberts who works on new investment activity and was involved in the sale of GTK to AiM-listed Volex plc in 2018 echoed that point. “We’ve already seen some speculative inbound interest for our investments from UK businesses backed by private equity on the lookout for acquisitions and those strategies don’t seem to be altering. As the businesses we back tend to have built out their management teams this can make this a viable option for all involved”.  Unlike last year we won’t predict the outcomes, but the Brexit backdrop hasn’t clarified and doesn’t look like it will in the timescales originally envisaged and the outlook for the global economy hasn’t changed, but as we invest for the medium term we are actively looking for opportunities where there is a good growth strategy.

What about the climate for growth and buy-out in UK small businesses?

Ian Waterfield who is also involved in new investment activity reckons “Experience suggests that investing through the cycles continues to result in delivering returns. In particular we find investing perhaps when there’s a softening in the economy and there is some uncertainty, like we are seeing at the moment, pays dividends in the long term”.  2018 was a strong new investment year for YFM and the way that 2019 has started is really encouraging with enquiries already up compared to last year.

“It is early days but there’s been across the board interest in demand for new equity investment in 2019. What’s really encouraging is this demand is right across the range of small business. Whether it’s a business that’s developed and has got off the ground that is looking to accelerate growth or where a team is looking to buy-out their owners” commented David Hall, MD of YFM. “We expected to see demand from our existing growth portfolio for investment and that looks like a prediction we can still be solid on. However, the early interest and demand we are seeing for our £2-10 million of growth and buy-out capital is really encouraging. We are adding to our investment capacity in the early part of this year and that’s looking like the right call.”

YFM generally holds investments for 5-7 years and that ability to invest in uncertain times and realise when cycles change is something that having longer term funds allows when supporting the UK’s small businesses.

As we’ve said before there’s no one recipe for success for the UK’s small businesses, but by continuing to innovate, deliver well and being that bit braver than you thought you were going to be, you may be surprised at how much more you can do.


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Bigger or Better?

Paul Cannings
Partner – Head of New Investments

The UK’s growth capital industry invests money into small businesses to help them to grow.  And building bigger businesses means good financial returns for investors.

But, for a moment, I want to think about whether the growth capital industry is just building bigger businesses.  Or whether it is also building better businesses.  I mean better for people, our society, and our planet?  Perhaps three answers………Yes, Normally and Could do better……

Yes …. Growth Capital investment is used by UK businesses to help them to grow, which nearly always means more jobs, typically means more exports, and often more British led new technology.  For example, we recently had a look at YFM’s own portfolio and found:

Normally… Bringing a professional investor into a business should also make a real difference to its governance.  I don’t just mean proper board meetings and an independent chair.  But also making sure Health& Safety is on every board agenda, making sure there is an Anti Bribery & Corruption policy in place, and ending any bad tax practices.

Could do better… However growth capital investors also have a unique opportunity to put “Impact” on the agenda of the businesses they invest in – ie Impact on people, society and the environment.  At YFM we have asked each of our portfolio of businesses to think about their Impact and to score themselves against 40 Impact criteria.  We will then help them to pick 1 or 2 specific things that they will target for improvement next year.  This will then go on the monthly board agenda and hopefully a measurable outcome reported when the Impact review is done again in a year’s time.

It’s early days but we have already had some interesting commitments from our businesses to: reduce energy consumption through a factory efficiency programme, switch to green tariff energy, ensure all waste aluminium is recycled, improve gender staff ratios, start a work placement scheme with a local college, and put in place mental wellbeing support for employees.     All sound ideas that are good for business and good for people, our society and our planet.

There are about 1000 business funded by VCT investors in the UK and many more funded by other growth capital investors. What if they were all encouraged to commit to 1 or 2 things to improve their Impact?  Not a bad thought for Christmas time.

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6 in 3 weeks as YFM completes £100m of deals

20 December 2018

4 exits as trade and PE buyers remain active

If the adage about waiting for a bus holds true, then the last three weeks has been a purple patch for YFM as we have realised four investments for up to 4.2x.

Combined with further investments into the remaining portfolio total deal activity topped £100 million in December. The backcloth of the most uncertain times in the UK’s recent political history, has not dimmed the ability of the UK’s small businesses to generate value, employment and boost exports.

So who is buying?
“It has been a real mix” said Ian Waterfield one of YFM’s partners involved in the sales of Mangar Health and Gill Marine. He added “Both buyers for these businesses were from overseas, one a French-based corporate and the other a syndicate comprising US and New Zealand investors.  While the UK political establishment was tying itself in knots and the markets were reacting, in both cases the sales processes continued and reached successful conclusions two days after the original Brexit vote in Parliament was due to take place.  This is testament to the strength of the businesses and the global opportunity that both present.”

“It hasn’t just been overseas buyers still looking to invest in the UK” said Jamie Roberts, a YFM partner who guided through the sale of GTK to AiM-listed Volex plc. “It was great to see demand from a UK quoted business prepared to invest significant cash in an acquisition” he commented. “Whilst we can be prepared to take paper on an exit it’s always better for our investors to be able to deliver cash and with Volex paying 85% of the consideration in cash this suited all of us”.

Colin Granger who was involved in the sale of Indigo Belcom had a different tale. “We did see interest from trade buyers, but in this case we had half a dozen mid-market Private Equity bidders who all saw potential that meant they trumped the trade offers. It was interesting though that the trade offers were again principally from overseas, with the most significant being from mainland Europe”. In the end though it was the UK based private equity houses that won the day with GCP completing the deal. “This was a great deal for us delivering over 4x multiple; but the team were also able to de-risk, which really helped them, as with value still to play for they go on a further buy and build strategy from a position of financial security”.

What was the attraction?
“Whilst it might sometimes seem obvious, these businesses had all developed significantly over the time that YFM had been involved” commented David Hall MD of YFM. “On average we’ve been invested just under five years in these businesses. In that time they’ve undergone a fair amount of change, some of which was envisaged at the point we invested, but quite a lot not.” This is not untypical of the change that faces the UK’s small businesses, but there were some specific factors in each case that help build resilience that led to the value increase and ultimately attracted the different buyers.

GTK had a UK-base but imported from China. We helped them set up their own eastern European manufacturing facility that gave more control over their supply chain. This dual footprint had a real attraction to the buyer.

Indigo Belcom was “just” Indigo at the point of investment. Whilst demand for its telecom services to the mobile and fixed line operators was undoubtedly growing, diversifying its customer base through an acquisition of a business supporting data centres was always likely to be value-enhancing; the risk, as for many small businesses, was in the execution but the team really delivered on this.

Gill Marine is a Nottingham based designer and manufacturer of branded technical apparel. It’s real transformation since YFM’s involvement had been the acquisition of its US distributor which cemented its access to its largest market. Taking that step for some small businesses can seem a big leap, but the support from an external investor makes a big difference.

Mangar Health has always had a strong product presence for its lifting equipment in the UK local authority and ambulance markets. Further growth has been achieved in care homes and improved distribution in Europe and the US. Its management team was expanded with a strong emphasis on promoting from within.

There’s no one recipe for success, but by continuing to innovate, deliver well and, perhaps occasionally be that bit braver than you thought you were going to be it can be, surprising how much you can do.

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This financial promotion has been issued and approved for the purposes of Section 21 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 by YFM Private Equity Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 122120). YFM Private Equity is the investment adviser to the VCTs and is a wholly owned subsidiary of YFM Equity Partners LLP (OC 384467) Registered in England and Wales. Registered office: 5th Floor, Valiant Building, 14 South Parade, Leeds, LS1 5QS.

YFM exit GTK generating a 3.4x return and a 36% IRR

19 December 2018

Sale to strategic trade buyer delivers strong returns to YFM

Funds advised by YFM Equity Partners (“YFM”) have exited their investment in GTK Limited for £14.3m, to Volex Plc, generating a return of 3.4x original cost to their funds and a 36% IRR.

YFM supported the incumbent management team in the primary buyout of GTK from its founder in October 2013.  During the 5 years YFM have been invested revenues have grown over 60% and profits have more than doubled.   The growth has been driven by continued investment in the UK sales team, the opening of a new sales office in Germany, a near doubling of manufacturing capacity in the UK and the opening of a new manufacturing facility in Romania in 2016.

John Morath, CEO at GTK, added: “GTK has grown tremendously since the MBO driven by a continued investment in sales reach, operational capabilities and international expansion.   It has been a great journey to go on with YFM who have been the supportive partner that they said they would be.”

Jamie Roberts, Partner who led the investment for YFM, said: “We have really enjoyed working with John and his team at GTK over the last 5 years and it is great to have been part of another UK manufacturing success story.  The GTK management team are typical of the sort of people we like to back at YFM and we are pleased to see them continue on their journey with Volex.”

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YFM Equity Partners-backed Gill Marine sets sail with new investors

18 December 2018

YFM Equity Partners has sold its stake in Gill Marine Holdings Limited (“Gill”) for an undisclosed sum to the Myers family office, working in conjunction with Pop Capital, a specialist brand investor.

Gill, the iconic British performance apparel brand, has more than 40 years of heritage in designing technical clothing, footwear and accessories for elite sailors and marine enthusiasts within its global distribution network.  The Company is led by CEO Jamie Tunnicliffe and his team of COO Ian Poore, Commercial Director Dominic McCarthy and Product Director Matt Clark.

YFM and its advised funds, including British Smaller Companies VCT plc and British Smaller Companies VCT2 plc, backed the management buyout of Gill Marine in 2013.  Over the last five years, the Company has continued to develop its product offering, its marketing capabilities and its ecommerce business, and most recently acquired its US distributor.  Today’s acquisition provides a full exit for all funds and delivers a 2x return on YFM’s original £9m investment.

Jamie Tunnicliffe, CEO of Gill Marine, commented: “These are exciting times for Gill.  YFM has supported us through a period of significant expansion for Gill and played a key role in helping us achieve our success.  We are now well placed to continue the growth and look forward to working with our new owner to deliver Gill’s full potential as a global marine inspired technical apparel brand.”

Commenting on the realisation, Ian Waterfield, Partner at YFM stated: “It has been a real privilege to work with the outstanding Gill management team, supported by Chairman Steve Richards.  Gill is a fantastic brand and we are sure that the new owners of the business will help drive even further growth.”

YFM and the other shareholders were advised by Ash Burman of Financo, and Richard Medd and Sam Sharp at Browne Jacobson LLP acted as legal counsel.  KPMG provided financial due diligence support and Pragma Consulting provided commercial due diligence.

The Myers family office was advised by Osborne Clarke, Deloitte, Macfarlanes, PWC and Cains.

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YFM exit Mangar Health generating a 2.7x return

14 December 2018

Another successful exit as YFM Equity Partners sells Mangar Health

YFM Equity Partners (“YFM”) has sold is stake in Mangar Health Limited for an undisclosed sum to Winncare Group Ltd’ a leading French medical device company, delivering a 2.7x return to investors.

Mangar Health designs, manufactures and supplies inflatable bathing and lifting devices, which protect carers from injury and promote independence for people with limited mobility. With a global reach into America, Canada and Australia, Mangar Health also offers a wide international distribution network and additional opportunities in healthcare markets such as emergency services.  The Company is led by CEO Simon Claridge and his team of Finance and Operations Director Craig Butcher, Commercial Director Andrew Macphail and Marketing Director Clare Birt.

YFM has been supporting the transformational growth of UK SMEs for over 35 years.  Mangar Health was backed by British Smaller Companies VCT plc and British Smaller Companies VCT2 plc, both advised by YFM, in a management buyout in 2014.  Over the period of YFM’s investment, employment has grown by almost 50% to more than 70 staff.  Today’s acquisition by Winncare Group provides a full exit for YFM’s funds and delivers a 2.7x return on investment (a 22% IRR).

Simon Claridge, CEO of Mangar Health, commented: “Mangar Health has expanded significantly since the YFM investment.  We appreciate their practical advice, strategic guidance and support in helping us fuel our continued growth over the past five years.  They have been terrific partners and played an important role in helping us achieve our success.”

Commenting on the realisation, Ian Waterfield, Partner at YFM stated: “This is another example of YFM identifying and backing a niche business with significant growth potential.  We have really enjoyed working with the Mangar Health management team, alongside chairman James Buckley, and we are sure that they will deliver further growth as part of the Winncare Group”.

For YFM, this success follows the recent sale of Indigo Telecom (a 4.2x return for investors).

YFM and the management team were advised by Christian Mayo, Stephen Leah and Joe Bainborough at KPMG and Pete Wood, Carly Gulliver and Caera Loughran at Addleshaw Goddard.

Christian Mayo, Head of Corporate Finance at KPMG in Yorkshire, said: “Mangar is a fantastic business that has really carved out a unique and enviable position in the healthcare products sector. The firm’s portfolio and international growth plans, coupled with the support of leading international operator Winncare, will provide a strong platform for expansion. The deal demonstrates the continued appetite from foreign buyers for quality UK businesses.”

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YFM exit Indigo-Belcom generating a 4.2x return

10 December 2018

Sale to secondary buyer delivers strong returns to investors

YFM Equity Partners (“YFM”) have exited their investment in Indigo-Belcom, to Growth Capital Partners, generating a return of 4.2x original cost to their funds.

YFM invested in the management buyout of Indigo Telecom in 2016, alongside Maven Capital Partners, and during the term of its investment supported the business with the strategic acquisition of Belcom247 in September 2017, together forming the enlarged Indigo-Belcom Group. Following the successful acquisition, revenues increased from £12 million to a forecast of over £30 million in the current year, with underlying profits increasing from £1.3 million to over £4 million.

South Wales based Indigo-Belcom designs, installs and maintains telecom networks across the globe, enabling customers such as Vodafone, Sky and BT to deliver fixed line, broadband, mobile and other data services to a wide variety of corporate, enterprise and consumer end users.

Indigo-Belcom’s senior executive team is led by CEO Stephen Thompson, who was previously Vice President of Sales at Technicolor and COO of Alcatel Lucent UK & Ireland. Under Stephen’s leadership, the business delivered strong organic and acquisitive growth with year-on-year increases in earnings performance, as well as a continual focus on operational efficiency and growth in long-term Managed Service revenues.

Stephen Thompson, CEO at Indigo-Belcom, added: “The business has grown tremendously in the last two years following the MBO. As well as the acquisition and integration of Belcom247, the Group has grown organically at an exceptional rate, expanded into new state of the art facilities and doubled headcount. It’s been an exciting period and we have welcomed the support and financial backing of both Maven and YFM during this time.”

Colin Granger, Partner at YFM, said: ““It has been a privilege to work alongside the senior team at Indigo-Belcom and be part of the growth journey over the last two years. Indigo is a great case study of the types of businesses and management teams we look to back at YFM. Finally, we would like to thank everyone at Indigo-Belcom for all of their hard work and wish everyone at the company all the very best for the future.”

The exit is the first from YFM’s debut buyout fund which only closed in May 2017 at £46m, delivering a strong early return to investors.


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Tables and Chairs

Nigel Owens
Partner, YFM Equity Partners

If you’ve been out equity fund-raising, for a growth capital investment or a management buyout, you’ll have heard this before – “…and we always appoint an independent chair or non-exec as part of our investment”.

Why do funders do that?  And why would you want a non-exec at your board room table?

At YFM we make growth capital investments into businesses that are scaling up.  We also support the ownership transition of more established profitable businesses, and yes, at the time we make the investment we usually like the business to appoint an independent chair or non-exec.  I can’t speak for why other investors do it, but this is what I’ve learned over thirteen years of investing:

  1. It’s lonely at the top. 
    Almost all businesses above a certain size have a management team and most teams have a leader.  The leader can find that the experience is hugely empowering and fulfilling, but even the most outwardly confident will confess to moments of doubt about particular issues when it would be good to have a mentor in support.A quick story – I have a friend who is the MD of a fast-growing business – one without external shareholders.  Five years ago, she hired a “a part-time boss” – someone who mentored her but also held her to account for achieving her own plans.  I thought that was a brave decision.   But because she got to choose her “boss” she hired a really good one.  And her decision paid off –  half-hearted plans got improved, good ideas got lots of encouragement and there was an unexpected benefit.  My friend took her boss along to a pitch for a good project with a prestigious client.  Hearing of the attendance of “the boss”, the client brought their manager in too.  The MD’s hired “superior” didn’t have to say much but brought experience and gravitas.  Result:  higher level access, quicker decision, successful pitch.  Sometimes it pays to have someone else on your team.
  2. Journey experience
    Most people who have grown a business of any scale will tell you that it’s the new challenges that can trip you up – hiring your first employee is a big step for some, setting the commission structure for sales people for the very first time can be daunting. And the first time you buy another business, the learning curve can be huge.  As a consequence, entrepreneurs learn on the hoof – they have to.  But, having a chair who has actually done the journey before – growing a business from twenty people to a hundred people for example – can be invaluable.
  3. Filling the gaps
    Fast scaling businesses will often need to add specialist skills to their management team – a finance director or a properly strategic sales and marketing manager are common examples.  We sometimes find that the chairman can bring some of those skills in to play early, get the basic strategy set and then help the CEO recruit the right person to take the business forward.

The vital bit is  chemistry.  No matter how impressive the CV, what the journey experience or specialist skills, the team has to be able to work with the chair.  We’ve made over a hundred investments in the past 35 years and we know that if we get the chair role right then everybody wins.


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