Electric Business

A brief summary of business news to keep you informed on company start-ups, corporate downsizing and mergers and acquisitions.

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Patron-backed Vine buys Laine pub chain

Vine Acquisitions has acquired Laine Pub Company for an undisclosed sum. Vine Acquisitions is an investment vehicle for May Capital and Patron Capital, which backed Punch Taverns in a £402.7m deal in 2017. Laine currently manages 21 independent pubs in London, 33 in Brighton and four Mash Inns in partnership with Ei Group. The business will continue to be run by its existing management team.

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EG Group enters US with £1.53bn acquisition

Independent forecourt operator EG Group has acquired 762 convenience stores in the US from Kroger Co. The £1.53bn deal includes 66 franchise operations across 18 states, with some 11,000 employees. EG Group will establish North American headquarters in Cincinatti, Ohio, using this acquisition as a platform to implement and adapt its retail brand partner commercial approach and expand across the continent.

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Purina Petcare buys dog food subscription startup Tails.com

Nestlé Purina Petcare has acquired Tails.com, a direct-to-consumer bespoke dog food subscription service based in the UK. Launched in 2014, Tails.com’s mix of tailored pet nutrition, strong customer engagement and home-delivery subscription model has seen the business grow quickly to reach sales of over £20m and a customer base of over 100,000 dogs. The company currently prepares and delivers around four million bespoke meals a month. It will remain a standalone entity led by current CEO James Davidson following the deal.

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LDC backs Mandata in £20m deal

Lloyds Banking Group’s LDC has backed a secondary buyout of Mandata in a £20m deal. Mandata is a transport management software provider that supports the UK haulage sector, managing over 10,000 vehicles and employing 60 people at offices in Cramlington and Leeds. The deal sees a 8x return for exiting investor Synova Capital.

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Goldman-backed consortium buys Cityfibre for £538m

A Goldman Sachs-backed consortium of funds called Connect Infrastructure Bidco is buying Cityfibre. The £537.8m deal aims to create a fibre infrastructure provider with the resources to compete with BT Openreach, which has dominated the sector. Cityfibre’s goal is to provide FttP connections for 20% of the UK market, having met only a fifth of this target so far.

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AB InBev acquires spirits specialist Atom Group

Spirits, e-commerce and imports business Atom Group has been acquired by AB InBev’s ‘global growth and innovation’ arm ZX Ventures. The Atom Group describes itself as a disruptive global drinks business encompassing the full life-cycle of spirits – from inception, prototyping, production and branding with Atom Brands to import and distribution via Maverick Drinks and retail with Master of Malt. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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Alibaba-backed startup buys UK genetic testing firm DNAFit

Alibaba-backed startup Prenetics has acquired DNAFit, a consumer genetic testing business based in London. DNAFit produces personalised diet, fitness and nutrition advice for consumers and the corporate wellness arena, with blue-chip clients that include LinkedIn, TalkTalk and Channel 4. According to a report by Arthur D. Little, the expected annual market size for genetic testing will explode to reach $50bn by 2026 due to a new wave of personalised medical treatments.

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Evolve IP acquires thevoicefactory

US business Evolve IP has bought thevoicefactory, a cloud communications provider based in Cardiff. The acquisition provides Evolve IP with additional distribution channels in the UK and Europe, as well as an expanded client base and penetration into the hospitality, automotive, finance and legal sectors. Founded in 2009, thevoicefactory’s services include web-based call management, an advanced omnichannel contact center, single-sign-on identity and access management and a worldwide team of custom application developers. The business has more than 65,000 users in 21 countries via its private label program.

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Ellis Short exits with Sunderland relegation

Irish-American businessman Ellis Short has agreed to sell Sunderland AFC to an international consortium of football investors, led by Eastleigh FC chairman Stewart Donald. The news comes with confirmation of the club’s relegation from the Championship and the sacking of manager Chris Coleman. The exit of Short ends a decade with the club, predominantly spent in the Premier League until relegation in 2017. Upon leaving Short has cleared Sunderland’s debts, believed to be worth over £100m accrued over the course of his tenure.

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Asda and Sainsbury’s propose supermarket sweep

Asda Group and J Sainsbury plc have announced plans to merge their businesses. The deal would create one of the UK’s largest grocery, general merchandise and clothing retail groups, with revenues of around £51bn for 2017 and a workforce of 330,000 people. The combined company would have a network of over 2,800 Sainsbury’s, Asda and Argos stores and several of the UK’s most visited retail websites, amounting altogether to 47 million customer transactions each week. This new entity would receive nearly £1 in every £3 spent on groceries nationwide, beating even Tesco by market share. The firms suggest that the merger will allow the enlarged company to invest in areas that matter most to customers, such as price, quality, range and more flexible ways to shop. With this expanded purchasing power the business expects to be able to lower prices on many items by around 10%. The business will be chaired by Sainsbury’s Chairman and led by Sainsbury’s CEO and CFO. Asda will continue to be run from Leeds with its own CEO, who will join the group operating board along with two representatives from Walmart. Walmart would hold a 42% stake in the combined company.

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