Lead Forensics


Private equity in the Black Country

10 Jul 2019

As featured in the Express & Star, Black Country Business magazine (July 2019).

The Black Country is home to more than 38,500 ambitious, innovative firms that contribute more than £21.7billion[1] to both the local and national economy. The region is renowned for its industrial heritage – 29 per cent of firms with annual sales of more than £1million work in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sectors, according to BDO’s latest Black Country Growth Report[2] – but the businesses here are diverse and span a wide range of sectors. Construction and financial services firms are showing particularly high growth[3].

In our experience, the one thing that often unites these businesses is an ambitious entrepreneur or management team striving for growth and expansion. However, there can come a time when they need to look outside of their organisation for the support and capital required to unlock future growth. That’s where a partnership with a private equity investor can help.

A private equity partnership can help propel businesses to the next stage of their journey. The additional funding and expertise can support a range of growth strategies including expansion into new markets, developing new product, investing in infrastructure or organic growth. It can also enable management teams to acquire complementary businesses and increase their share in the market.

Despite some common misconceptions, private equity is not all about money, but instead it’s about forming a strong, working relationship with the management team that is driving the business forward and providing the strategic support and guidance they need to turbo-charge growth.

We’ve had a strong presence in the Black Country over the years and have supported local management teams grow their businesses in a number of ways, whether that’s through making acquisitions, launching new products, building new manufacturing facilities, breaking into new sectors or expanding overseas.

Over the last 30 years, we have successfully partnered with more than 160 management teams across the Midlands region and have invested more than £1.2billion to support innovative, ambitious businesses.

Our current portfolio of Black Country firms generates combined revenues of more than £2.8billion and employs more than 12,500 people in the Midlands and beyond. This year, we’re committed to continuing this support by investing £150million across the region and the Black Country is a key focus for us.

Stand-out Black Country investments include Wolverhampton’s Angel Springs, which LDC exited in 2014. During our investment period (2011 – 2014), the business made nine strategic acquisitions and saw turnover rise from £14million to £20million. The business also relocated to a new, larger head office to support its expansion and increased its headcount from 131 to more than 200 people.

We completed the sale of our stake in the business in 2014 in a multi-million pound deal with German private equity provider Castik Capital, delivering a money multiple of 3x our original investment in just three years.

Interview with John Dundon, Non-Executive Director at Waterlogic UK (formerly Angel Springs)

Based in Wolverhampton, Angel Springs, which now trades as Waterlogic UK, supplies and services bottled water coolers and mains-fed water coolers. The business was established in 1989 but formed the midlands region of a buy and consolidate strategy in December 2003 by John and the team. The business operated from depots across the UK, with a diverse customer base of mostly multi-site blue chip organisations.

LDC invested in Angel Springs in 2011 to support the business’ management team in driving organic growth alongside delivering an ambitious buy and build growth strategy. Between 2011 and 2014, the business secured significant new contracts with both SME and multi-site blue chip businesses and completed nine strategic acquisitions. This helped grow its client base and improve service distribution efficiencies in key regions across the UK.

During LDC’s tenure, the business achieved significant sales and profit growth, with turnover rising from £14million to £20million in 2014. Employee numbers also rose considerably, with the business employing more than 200 people at the end of the investment period, up from 131 in 2011.

LDC completed the sale of its stake in the business in 2014 in a multi-million-pound deal with German private equity provider Castik Capital.

Here we talk to John Dundon, Non-Executive Director at Waterlogic International (formerly Angel Springs UK), about his experiences of working with LDC and how private equity helped to accelerate Angel Springs’ growth.

  • How has the business developed since the investment in 2011 and made it what it is today?

“The investment partnership helped us to understand how to implement a robust organic growth plan, as well as enabling us to acquire and successfully integrate complementary businesses. We completed nine acquisitions across the UK during the investment period, helping us to expand our geographic footprint nationally. This has been instrumental to our growth and success in recent years.”

orange quote mark
When we were looking for a private equity partner, our main priority was a team that was the right fit for us – both commercially and personally.”
John Dundon, Non-Executive Director
Waterlogic UK (formerly Angel Springs)

How would you describe your partnership with LDC during the investment period (2011-14)?

“When we were looking for a private equity partner, our main priority was a team that was the right fit for us – both commercially and personally. During several months of negotiation, we got to know Andy Lyndon and Alistair Pendleton at LDC very well and found them to be like-minded people, who also happen to be fantastic at what they do. LDC was a great partner to help us accelerate the growth of our business. They were very supportive, collaborative and provided creative solutions to any challenges the business faced. The team pushed us commercially, which was what we needed to really drive us and help unlock Angel Springs’ full potential.”

Did you have any preconceptions about private equity investment before your partnership with LDC? Did these change during / after your partnership?

“We had prior experience of private equity and were aware of both the challenges and opportunities it brings as a result. It was important for us to find a partner who challenged us commercially, but still gave us the freedom to run our business. This is exactly what we got with LDC.”

What advice would you give to Black Country businesses considering private equity?

“I’d say that if you are looking to rapidly expand your business, organically, through acquisitions or both, having the right private equity partner can be absolutely critical to your success. It’s not simply a case of finding a partner who will just give you the best financial deal on paper, but one who will become an integral part of your team and truly grow with you and the business and ultimately, provide you with very attractive returns. We are very proud of the partnership and success we enjoyed with LDC.”

Comment from Richard Whitwell, Director and Head of the Midlands at LDC

“From our initial meeting with Angel Springs, we really connected with John and the team and truly bought into the company’s vision and ambition. They had been in growth mode for a number of years before we backed them, but there were even more opportunities for the business to tap into. This was an exciting prospect for us and from day one John and the team delivered. It’s a partnership that we’re very proud of.”

[2] 2019 Black Country Growth Report, BDO

[3] 2019 Black Country Growth Report, BDO