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Dev-Bank Wales MBO
23 January 2024

Gambit Corporate Finance: Review of 2023

Gambit Corporate Finance, the mid market corporate finance advisory firm, has experienced its most successful ever year.

Established in 1992, the UK’s longest established independent corporate finance advisory firm led and advised on 19 transactions with a cumulative deal value of approximately £400 million.

Whilst the M&A market underperformed in the UK in 2023 amidst continued macroeconomic headwinds in the form of geopolitical tensions, rising interest rates and fears of an economic recession, the second half of the year showed signs of resilience as M&A activity began to stabilise.

Despite decreased market activity, average EV/EBITDA multiples observed by Gambit were strong with solid fundamentals and a track record of resilience commanding premium valuations. This trend is expected to continue into 2024 as the demand for companies with differentiated offerings and proven business models drives more substantial multiples.

Transactions where Gambit acted as lead advisor in 2023 included:

  • Astutis – the sale of Astutis to AIM-quoted Wilmington plc for consideration of up to £21.5 million. Astutis is the UK market leader in the provision of NEBOSH and IOSH accredited health, safety and environmental training.
  • Wild Water Group – the sale of Wales’ and the South West’s leading provider of bespoke temperature controlled distribution, logistics and warehouse services to Delancey, a specialist real estate investor
  • Veezu – one of the UKs fastest growing companies and the largest private hire vehicle (“PHV”) operator in the UK – Gambit advised Veezu on raising additional capital from Tresmares, the pan-European alternative investment fund and Santander. Additionally, it advised on the acquisitions of City Taxis and Excel Taxis, the largest PHV operators in the Sheffield region
  • Blue Sky Digital – the sale of one of Wales’ leading managed print solutions (“MPS”) providers to Aurora Managed Services, UK’s largest independent MPS providers backed by Pemberton Asset Management, the pan-European private credit manager
  • HAC – the sale of Harries Automation and Control, leading independent designer and manufacturer of electronic power and control systems with global reach to Vinci Energies, a €16.7 billion revenue international business
  • Spectra – debt-advisory services to a leading global provider of tactical and strategic mission-critical communication systems and high grade information security network capabilities
  • Indigo Group – the acquisition of Beaver Management Services, one of the leading staffing agencies in the Building Services, Construction, Rail and Engineering industries throughout the UK
  • Premier Forest – advice to its long-standing client on 3 strategic acquisitions in the value-added timber sector; Tyne & Wear based Decorpanel the specialist timber products manufacturer; South-Wales based PWIDF a leading door, fixings and ironmongery business and County Durham-based North East Sheets and Panels, the specialist  manufacturer of bespoke cabinet ranges for kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Town & Country Hotels – advice to the MBO team on the acquisition of the prominent hotel chain

Global reach

Gambit is the sole UK shareholder in Corporate Finance International (“CFI”), a group of global corporate finance advisory firms with 28 offices in 18 countries and some 250 fee earners.  A significant proportion of Gambit’s deals in the past decade are cross-border and involve non-UK counterparties.

The partnership with CFI enables Gambit and its clients to identify and directly access buyers, sellers and investors on a global basis, which gives the firm unparalleled international reach via direct local relationships, which Gambit’s peer group are unable to replicate.

In 2023, Corporate Finance International was ranked by Thomson Reuters as number 17 in Europe and number 25 globally for transactions up to €200 million in value.

Team development

Gambit invested in its team in 2023 and significantly increased its headcount.  New colleagues joining the team in the year were:

  • Louise Howard (Manager)ACCA qualified and her previous career was at J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs
  • Alkesh Monji (Executive)ACCA qualified and previously worked at EG Group, one of the world’s leading convenience retailers with operations in 10 countries
  • Oscar Webb (Analyst) – who joined from IVC Evidensia the global leader in veterinary care, owned by EQT Private Equity the global private equity firm
  • Taran Sandhu (Analyst) – joined the firm for a one-year placement as part of his Banking and Finance degree at Cardiff University
  • Louise Downey (Office Manager) – an experienced Office Manager who has previously worked with Bain & Co, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley

In addition, Gambit was proud to announce the promotions of Harrie Thorrington and Will Haggaty to Manager and Executive respectively.

Further senior hires will be announced in Q1 of 2024.

Award winning

The firm was again recognised by Insider Magazine in its 2023 Dealmaker Awards, with Sam Forman being awarded the coveted Emerging Dealmaker of the Year award and Gambit winning the International Deal of the Year award for advising US-based TDS on the sale of its Voice Practice to LDC-backed Kerv Group.

In addition, the firm received national recognition of its debt-advisory services including Debt Advisor of the Year at the Finance Monthly M&A Awards.

Geraint Rowe, Partner said

“we are extremely proud that Gambit achieved its best ever year in its 31-year history in 2023, despite some turbulence in UK M&A markets.  In most of our core sectors, sellers have an optimistic outlook for 2024.  We have invested heavily in the growth of the firm and we have a team of unprecedented quality.  This, coupled with our unmatched global reach via Corporate Finance International means that we are expecting the momentum generated in 2023 to continue in to 2024 and beyond.  The abundance of capital held by private equity funds, venture capital investors and acquisitive companies, coupled with a lowering cost of capital should fuel increasing M&A volumes.  Thank you to our clients and transaction partners including solicitors and accountants for their continued support”.

Jason Evans, Partner and Head of Debt Advisory commentated

“following multiple waves of interest rate hikes in 2023, the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee’s decision to maintain current rates has stabilised the credit market, with interest rates expected to soften during 2024.  The normalisation of a higher interest rate environment has led to an uptick in available funding sources to help fuel market activity, despite the assumption that banks will continue to leverage restrictive lending policies. Non-traditional funding sources have gained popularity amidst an evolving credit landscape. This has also supported continued optimism in 2024”.

Frank Holmes, Partner said

“traditionally, Gambit has seen more deal activity leading up to a UK General Election; in part due to potential capital gains tax implications of different administrations.  An election in H2 2024 is likely to act as a catalyst for deal activity in the UK.  A combination of demonstrable and sustainable trading performance post Brexit and Covid plus pent up succession pressures facing ageing business owners will fuel deal activity in 2024 and 2025.”

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