15 February, 2021 - 17:02

Ashcroft off to a flying start in 2021

Roald Dahl said he would like to “remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead.” Whilst many of us may share his sentiments, January proved a month of high energy and success for Ashcroft with two transactions (and a host of tax returns) successfully completed, writes Tom Gallop, Partner with Ashcroft Partnership.

The first deal saw the successful management buyout of East Anglian-based hiring consultancy Marshall Wolfe, which provides innovative staffing solutions and best practice hiring advice to a broad range of clients in London and the East.

Ashcroft advised the management team, led by Amber Hunt, on the buyout of the business from the founders Jim and Sanchia Marshall.

Soon afterwards there came a debt fund raising for insurance specialist r10 Consulting. Ashcroft raised circa £2 million of debt to enable r10 to make strategic investments in several insurance sector assets. Funds were secured through the Cambridge office of Boost & Co, led by Principal Faye McDonough.

“The insurance industry is going through a rapid digital transformation,” commented Faye, “and r10 is well placed to consolidate and accelerate its growth.

“We’re also grateful to Ashcroft Partnership, which has a significant presence in Cambridge and introduced us to r10. We value our collaboration with Ashcroft because, as with BOOST&Co, a focus on entrepreneurship runs through everything they do.”

Deal activity and the pipeline remain strong for the Ashcroft team, bolstered last year by the addition of experienced Director Tim Blois and private equity consultant Anthony Bull.  

Activity is being driven by many factors, including pent-up demand after months of relative inactivity during 2020.  In addition, a widely anticipated increase to capital gains tax is encouraging some vendors to accelerate transactions. Whether in the March 3rd budget or later in the parliamentary term, it seems inevitable that taxes will rise, and many entrepreneurs are busy planning for that eventuality.

A further driver of activity will be the private equity firms that have raised huge amounts of capital ready to be deployed.  Competition will be fierce, and multiples strong, for businesses in growing sectors run by capable management teams. 

Ashcroft is currently working on transactions in healthcare, technology and fresh produce – sectors that have not only ridden the Covid storm but posted record results and which are attracting significant interest. For travel and hospitality businesses, the firm is working with directors to rebuild balance sheets and rework business plans.  

It’s not just in mergers and acquisitions that Cambridge is performing strongly. Our friends across the professional services space are reporting a strong start to the year. 

For leading independent search firm Bailey Fisher, the end of 2020 witnessed the busiest quarter of the year for senior hires within Cambridge’s tech sector and MD Andy Moore reported “strong demand for experienced technology leadership…. we are starting to see businesses invest in talent ready for what will hopefully be a sharp upturn for the tech sector.”

Leading design and fit out specialists COEL also reported a healthy order book and pipeline of projects as Cambridge businesses continue to invest in their facilities.

“The seismic changes in the last 11 months have centred a huge amount of attention on office space and the way we work”, said managing director Alistair Rumbelow. “Wellbeing, ergonomic furniture and connectivity to others are heralded as key factors in workplace designs, as organisations look to invest in their employees’ psychological and physical requirements which can’t be supported in the same way at home.

“With a strong order book and pipeline continuing through Q2 & Q3 of 2021, we have a high level of confidence that the Cambridge market will remain buoyant moving into 2022.”

So, as we bid farewell to January and the snowdrops appear, deal activity across all professional services in Cambridge is expected to remain high and the city that has so often led the way in terms of growth, innovation and activity is likely to do so again in 2021.


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