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6 January, 2022 - 17:25 By Tony Quested

Foresight investments playing a key role in the region’s economic health

So much investment has poured into East of England businesses in recent times that it is tempting to think only gilt-edged global tech plays warrant funding. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While life science and technology market leaders in the region hog the international limelight and fill their boots and coffers, crucial investment from other sources is underpinning the growth of businesses across a wider range of sectors in the SME space.

One of the most significant pump primers at the corporate coal face is the Foresight East of England Fund.

The £100 million fund, headed locally by former Deloitte and Grant Thornton finance specialist Matt McLoughlin, targets equity investments of up to £10 million in small and medium-sized business in the East of England and beyond.

The Fund is cornerstoned by Cambridgeshire Pension Fund, with the objective of providing long-term value growth for investors. The aim is to provide an ongoing pool of patient capital.

The Fund was launched in 2019 to invest in established companies to help management teams achieve their growth ambitions. The vision is to invest across a broad range of sectors in companies with a sustainable competitive advantage and defensible margins.

The Fund targets companies with EBITDA of more than £500,000 and revenue typically between £2m and £20m.

Foresight backs a broad range of transaction types including buy-outs, buy-ins, equity release, acquisition finance and growth capital.

Foresight is growing its locally based team in Cambridge city centre and is also able to lean on colleagues in well-established locations elsewhere in the UK.

The first investment from the Foresight East of England Fund supported the Buy-in Management Buyout of McIntyre Electrical. McIntyre Electrical is a leading provider of safety-critical fire and electrical inspection and maintenance services, primarily for housing associations. Based in Peterborough, McIntyre Electrical was established by Joe McIntyre and John Clifford in 2006 and today employs 158 people.

In December 2020, Foresight completed the acquisition of Essex-based Plantexpand.

Plantexpand provides plant and vehicle fleet maintenance and repair services to companies across the South East.

The most recent deal was in April 2021 and featured an equity investment in the longstanding and celebrated Beckett Investment Management Group. Founded in 1988, Beckett helps private clients and companies make the right financial choices by providing top quality independent financial and employee benefits advice.

Headquartered in Bury St Edmunds and with three other offices across the East of England, Beckett’s 85 employees provide market-leading advice to around 3,000 clients, managing over £850 million of assets across a diversified mix of investment portfolios.

Foresight’s investment has enabled Bob Beckett, the founder and chairman, to retire and will support the next phase of development and growth of the company under the leadership of managing director, Ian White.

Having acquired the employee benefits team of NW Brown during 2019 and opened a new office in Norwich, this investment will also assist the continuing ambition of Beckett to support individuals and companies in the East of England region and beyond.

Matt McLoughlin told Business Weekly: “Typically we will invest up to £10m in attractive SMEs. We have injected over £15m into the first three investments. We liaise closely with law firms, financial advisers and other key players in the region’s SME community to identify investment opportunities which cover a range of scenarios.

“Often founders and other family owners, where relevant, will be ready to sell their business after a long time in the driving seat. Other company owners will want to raise growth capital to take their companies to the next level.

“We hope to continue building trust across the SME community and that small business owners appreciate our expertise, our steady hand and our ability to help them grow their enterprises in a range of circumstances.

“The region has a global reputation for attracting large volumes of investment for DeepTech and Life Science enterprises. We are keen to support those sectors, but the East of England isn’t just about technology plays.

“The region built its early reputation for the rock-solid nature of its economy across a range of traditional sectors – business services, logistics, farming & agriculture, manufacturing and broader industry, financial and legal services, commercial and residential property and many more.

“These businesses continue to thrive and many of them require help to continue growing at key stages of a company’s life cycle.

“That’s where Foresight comes in and I am thrilled to report that we are currently reviewing a number of exiting opportunities that are set to lead to further critical investments in stalwart SMEs across the East of England.”

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