We have developed a detailed understanding of a range of industry sectors. Our successful deals have also generated an extensive network of industry contacts and advisers who alert us to new opportunities in these sectors and help us throughout the transaction process.
We took Game, Ottakar’s and Paperchase from an early stage to a public listing or trade sale. Our investment in Maplin was multiplied by 10 on its disposal to a secondary buy-out, which won us a ‘Deal of the Year’ award. We sold Jane Norman to financial buyers, following its rapid growth under our ownership. In 2008 we acquired Kurt Geiger for UK and international expansion. Despite the recession, Kurt Geiger more than doubled its profit under our ownership and was acquired by a US trade buyer in 2011, again winning us a ‘Deal of the Year’ award.
Our investments cover all distribution channels – online, high street and shopping centre stores, concessions, mail order, wholesale, franchise – and stages of the supply chain, from design and sourcing to manufacturing and distribution. Building on this broad experience, we are seeking to back brands with the potential to gain market share regardless of the strength of the economy and consumer spending. We are currently expanding Explore Learning, a provider of after-school tuition services for children aged 5-14. Explore operates 115 tuition centres across the UK and the USA.
Over the past 30 years Graphite has successfully backed a large number of industrial companies. Denison, a manufacturer of hydraulic valves and pumps, was floated on NASDAQ, generating a return of 12 times our initial investment. LS Group and Applied Energy, both manufacturers of building materials, were successfully sold to trade acquirers, generating returns of 6.0 and 4.0 times our investment respectively. Our largest current investment in the sector is U-POL, a manufacturer of refinishing products for the automotive aftermarket.
Graphite targets growing companies with market leading positions and a proven tack record of success in their sector. Over the past few years we have successfully invested in a variety of specialist manufacturing businesses, including in the automotive, building materials, chemical and medical devices markets. We have generated strong returns from investing throughout the economic cycle.
Our successful realisations include Huntress, which returned 7.6 times cost, Computacenter, 13.0 times cost, GoPlant, 4.2 times cost, Alexander Mann Solutions, 3.6 times cost and Education Personnel, 5.8 times cost.
We are currently developing Explore Learning, a leading provider of after-school tuition to children aged between 5 and 14 and are also supporting the buy-and-build growth strategy of Micheldever Tyre Services, the UK's largest tyre distributor.
Our investments have covered most sub-segments of the services and distribution sectors, including property and facilities management, business process outsourcing and staffing. We look for strong management teams in companies with a differentiated proposition in defensible markets benefiting from favourable macro trends.
We won the Education Investor 2015 'Investor of the Year'.
We have successfully invested in many different sub sectors of financial services including insurance (Hiscox, SBJ, Denplan), stockbroking (Sharelink) specialist lending and fund management (ICG and Stalwart) and pensions / employee benefits (PIFC and SBJ).
Many of our successful financial services investments have been made during periods of economic uncertainty, capitalising on the dislocation in financial markets to acquire counter-cyclical companies. We believe that the current environment offers exciting opportunities to back strong management teams in niche markets, such as wealth management, insurance and consumer finance.
Historically we have backed a number of elderly care home groups including Avery Healthcare, Ridgmont and Clearminster. These businesses grew successfully, both by making acquisitions and organically. In the homecare sector, we successfully disposed of Clinovia to a trade buyer, having trebled the operating profit under our ownership. Our investments in Alliance Medical and Summit Medical, both devices businesses, achieved returns of over three times cost and Education Personnel, the leading education staffing provider to schools, returned almost six times cost. We are currently investors in sk:n, a chain of non-cosmetic skin treatment clinics, City & County Healthcare, the leading UK independent home care provider and Explore Learning, a leading provider of after-school tuition.
We believe that the health, care and education markets exhibit strong fundamentals, driven by, amongst other factors, demographic trends, low cyclicality of demand, changing models of service provision and a global economy. We have a strong understanding of the changing dynamics of these sectors through our broad investment experience to date. We aim to back businesses which put care, education or clinical excellence at the heart of their operations.
In both 2009 and 2014 we won the Health Investor 'Investor of the Year' award in recognition of our long-term track record in the healthcare sector. Similarly, we won the Education Investor 'Investor of the Year' award in 2015.
Under our ownership, Wagamama grew from two restaurants to over 100 around the world, generating a return of over 10 times our original investment upon its sale to a financial buyer in 2011. In 2003, we led the development funding for the UK roll-out of Golden Tulip Hotels, which was sold to Whitbread plc in 2007. We currently own a range of leisure and property investments including Corbin & King, The Groucho Club and Hawksmoor.
We have significant experience of investing across a wide range of leisure segments with a focus on restaurants and bars, health and fitness, travel and accommodation. In our experience, leisure sector opportunities often have a strong property element. Our knowledge of the property market, combined with our track record in the consumer and retail sectors, gives us a wider perspective from which to assess those opportunities.
We have an established track record of investing in and growing technology businesses and technology-led service and retail businesses, where technology is integral to their proposition and competitive differentiation. We supported Computacenter to develop into one of the leading IT reseller and services businesses in the UK, which generated a return of 13.0 times our investment. Equanet, a leading IT reseller, generated 2.2 times cost.
A significant number of our current and realised investments have been software and IT led service or retail businesses. For example, Alexander Mann Solutions, a global leader in recruitment process outsourcing, grew EBITDA from £9m to £25m during our ownership. Education Personnel, the UK’s leading teaching supply business, generated a return of 5.8 times cost. Kurt Geiger, a leading footwear retailer and distributor, delivered an 11 fold increase in online revenues during the period of our ownership. In all cases, we invested significantly in market leading technology, which enabled strong growth.
We believe that the UK technology industry offers compelling growth opportunities for businesses that are able to take advantage of the rapidly increasing demand for improved performance, scalability, data availability, multi-channel accessibility, mobility and security. We have a thorough understanding of the changing dynamics within the technology sector and look for strong management teams in companies with differentiated and defensible IP or process know-how that are well placed to benefit from favourable macro trends.
Graphite’s financial support and expertise in the elderly care sector are helping us to make the most of our opportunities as the sector continues to consolidate.
John Strowbridge, CEO, Avery Healthcare
Graphite supported us from start-up when the recruitment market was going through one of its most demanding periods.
Gary Laurence, CEO, Huntress Group
With its strong knowledge of the retail industry, Graphite has been an excellent partner and helped us exceed our original business plan.
Neil Clifford, CEO, Kurt Geiger
Graphite’s previous experience backing companies in our sector proved invaluable in helping us build Ridgmont to its current position.
Roger Storey, CEO, Ridgmont
Graphite’s track record, operating style and familiarity with our business and the automotive after-market made them our first choice.
Phil May, CEO, U-POL
In 2001 Graphite Capital led the £41 million management buy-out of Maplin Electronics, a leading retailer of electronic components and accessories. Three years later we sold the company for £244 million.
Applied Energy was created when three complimentary brands were merged by their parent company. We acquired the business when it was underperforming. Following a successful turnaround Applied Energy was sold to an Irish trade buyer.
We acquired Summit Medical from the company's founders in 2001 and backed the management team in two add-on acquisitions.
Graphite led the management buy-out of Park Holidays UK in 2006. Which enabled them to make significant operational improvements and grown the number of parks under management. Park Holidays UK was sold to Caledonia Investments in 2013.