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Solent: Deals Awards winners revealed after busy year for dealmakers

By Dan Teuton
24 May 2019

The South Coast’s corporate finance sector celebrated the region’s dealmaking at the 2019 Solent Deals Awards.

Nearly 300 guests attended the awards evening, staged by The Business Magazine at the Hilton Ageas Bowl in Southampton.

The region’s advisers, lawyers, banks and investors joined company management teams, founders and shareholders for the celebration of the year’s best achievements.

The awards highlighted how the 71 finalists across 14 award categories are creating value for shareholders and boosting the region’s economy.

Peter Laurie, head of client relations at The Business Magazine, said: “M&A activity was up in 2018 – and in the early part of 2019 there are signs that this could be a record year.

“Brexit has given the market a sustained momentum, with business owners spurred into action, plus there is evidence of overseas companies acquiring strong local businesses in this region.”

The awards were sponsored by AIB, BDB Pitmans, BDO, Bibby Financial Services, Blake Morgan, Clarke Willmott, CMA Recruitment Group, Coffin Mew, Ethos Partners, HSBC, Meridian, Quantuma and Taylor Made Computer Solutions.

 The evening was hosted by Mark Durden-Smith, who has presented ITV’s This Morning, is a regular guest presenter on BBC Radio London’s The Breakfast Show, and has hosted Sky’s rugby coverage.

Generous donations from guests on the night raised over £2.400 for Brain Tumour Research, the charity dedicated to raising funds for continuous and sustainable scientific research into brain tumours.

Award winners 

Private Equity Firm of the Year

Firms that support and invest in high-growth businesses in the region.

Finalists: Apiary Capital, BGF, LDC, Livingbridge, Meridian Growth Capital, Percipient Capital

And the winner is… Meridian Growth Capital

The firm had a stellar year, with one deal in particular being a standout – the sale of loveholidays to Livingbridge for £190m, which was a finalist in the Large Deal of the Year category.

"It’s great to win the Private Equity Firm of the Year for the second year running. People are listening to what we are saying and coming to us. We believe we are now the largest investor in businesses in the Solent region. Currently, we have stakes in 13 different companies. The deal for loveholidays was a standout for us. We sat on the company’s Board and were with them on the whole journey. We learned a lot from the experience.” Darren Thompson, managing director, Meridian Growth Capital

Non-Bank Lender of the Year

This award encompasses asset-based lending, invoice finance, crowdfunding and more

Finalists: Arbuthnot Latham, Bibby Financial Services, Crowdcube, Funding Circle, PNC, ThinCats

 And the winner is…ThinCats

A fintech lender founded eight years ago, known for its pragmatic lending process of connecting investors directly with thriving businesses.

 "This is the first time we've won this category. It's good that all the hard work of our team has been recognised. We are able to do the type of deals many banks aren't interested in, such as cashflow lending and lending to smaller businesses. We work with clients on deals under £3m and up to £10m; our biggest Solent deal last year was £5m." Andrew Tapsell, director, regional business development, ThinCats

Lawyer of the Year

Finalists: Hayley Bevis of Coffin Mew, Lucy Gleisner of Trethowans, Steve Cole of Blake Morgan, Stephen Porter of Shoosmiths

And the winner is… Stephen Porter

A former Lawyer of the Year winner who heads his firm’s corporate division.

"It's good to be recognised with this award. I work hard on my relationships with advisers and clients. I've been working in the local business community for many years, so I've lots of friends, colleagues and contacts. I think I've built a reputation as a commercial lawyer who wants to get deals done. We acted for Peach Technologies to help its founder realise their ambition to sell the business, which was a highlight of the year for me." Stephen Porter, partner, Shoosmiths

Due Diligence Team of the Year

Finalists: BDO, James Cowper Kreston, Mazars, RSM

And the winner is… BDO

This firm advised on and completed over 16 deals over the qualifying period with an aggregate deal value of around £320m.

"The key thing for us is that our Due Diligence team gets on so well and all work really well together, which is absolutely critical. We come under enormous stress to get deals done, so getting on makes all the difference and is the root of our success. We've really grown our local due diligence business this year, as well as regionally and nationally." Darren Phillips, director, BDO


Corporate Finance Adviser of the Year

Finalists: Simon Davies of Spectrum, Rob Holmes of Wilkins Kennedy, Daniel Kirtley of Meridian, Stewart Lambert of James Cowper Kreston, Mark Lucas of Quantuma, Helen O’Kane of BDO

Highly Commended: Daniel Kirtley

And the winner is… Mark Lucas

Successfully transacted and delivered on 10 qualifying deals.

“Mark has been with us for about two years and I've known him for a lot longer. Winning this award is a fantastic achievement for him. We had 10 deals worth around £200m last year and in these Mark's strength has been in building great relationships with clients and other advisers. He's seen by clients as a trusted adviser and just gets on with running processes and managing issues – that's his forte." Carl Jackson, managing partner, Quantuma

Law Firm of the Year

Finalists: Blake Morgan, Clarke Willmott, Coffin Mew, Moore Blatch, Shoosmiths, Trethowans

 And the winner is… Trethowans

Advised on more than 30 transactions with values from £2.6m to £21m.

“A key factor for us has been our organic growth over the last five years. A lot of people have joined our firm because it’s a good place to work. Our culture is very important and we make sure that financially the firm is in a good position. It was a busy year for us, despite the Brexit effect. The sweetspot for our corporate team is dealing with clients where our work really makes a difference for them.” Chris Whiteley, managing partner, Trethowans

Corporate Finance Team of the Year

Finalists: BDO, Meridian, Spectrum Corporate Finance, Quantuma

And the winner is… Quantuma

The corporate finance team at Quantuma was established in September 2017 and from a standing start has successfully transacted and delivered on 10 deals.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to win. It was a genuine surprise. We’ve only had the corporate finance business for 18 months when Mark Lucas and I got the team going. Mark and I have worked in corporate finance for 20 years so our relationships go back a long time and it’s great that clients have chosen to follow us. The BOFA International deal was a highlight for us.” Ian Barton, corporate finance partner, Quantuma.

Young Dealmaker of the Year

Finalists: Jasmin Eames of Blake Morgan, Emma Livesey of Shoosmiths, Philip Mettam of Meridian

And the winner is… Emma Livesey

Held in high esteem in the Solent region, especially for her analytical approach to solving legal problems. She worked on both the Small Deal of the Year and the Large Deal of the Year.

“I’m delighted to win. I joined the firm eight years ago, qualified in corporate finance, and have always been based in the Solent region. I enjoy transactional work and working through challenges with clients to achieve a common goal of getting deals done. One of the highlights for me last year was working on the BOFA International sale – we’d worked on the MBO back in 2015. The Taylor Made Solutions and Peach deal was another highlight.” Emma Livesey, senior associate, Shoosmiths

Bank of the Year

Finalists: Barclays, HSBC, NatWest, Santander

And the winner is… HSBC

Supported over 220 businesses across the Solent region and lent over £1bn to help local businesses grow.

“This award is great recognition for my corporate finance team of 29 people who cover Hampshire and Dorset, and also for the wider HSBC team covering the region. We have great clients and helped them through what was a challenging year. The diversity among our 1,700 corporate clients makes our work interesting and we enjoy dealing with businesses that have so much entrepreneurial flair.” Anthony Reed, head of corporate finance, HSBC

Banker of the Year


Finalists: Ian Burroughs – NatWest, Anthony Donohue – NatWest, Richard Hoyle – HSBC, Ben Hyslop – HSBC, Mikael Rosen - NatWest

And the winner is… Anthony Donohue

Took an active role in a number of transactions in the year, including the Aerial Direct MBO – the Mid-Range Deal of the Year.

“I’m delighted and humbled. I enjoy and love my job. I get all the reward I need from helping businesses to develop and grow. My team is very important to me. An individual is only as good as the team they have around them who support them and allow them to do what they do. The professional network in the Solent region is also very tight and works well together for the benefit of the region.” Anthony Donohue, head of corporate and commercial, Solent region, NatWest

Management Team of the Year

Finalists: 23.5 Degrees Topco; Aerial Direct; BOFA International; The Flavourworks Group; Vail Williams; Yospace

Judges comments:

A company that has become synonymous with rapid growth and progressive management and was successfully acquired last year by a global leader in its field. A fantastic success story, and a company that has been a multiple award winner in the past few years.

And the winner is… BOFA International

"We’re delighted to win this award. I lead a very special team who have been put together over a long period of time. They are very strong individuals who collectively are incredibly powerful. It's a privilege to work with them. They have made BOFA a leader in our marketplace. As a leader you have open space ahead of you so you can't be complacent and always have to maintain your optimism, passion and drive." Tony Lockwood, managing director, BOFA International

Small Deal of the Year (up to £10m)

Finalists: Chapman IP – trade sale to Murgitroyd Group plc; DV02 - sale to Daisy Group; Four Tees Engineers – MBO; Hughes Ellard and Vail Williams - merger; The Flavourworks Group - MBO; Taylor Made Computer Solutions – acquisition by Peach

And the winner is… Taylor Made Computer Solutions – acquisition by Peach

A high-profile deal that combines Peach’s market-leading telecoms services with TMCS’s extensive IT services.

"A key factor behind the success of this deal was that everyone wanted it to happen. Our advisers Shoosmiths and Moore Blatch worked hard together. We held roundtable meetings to agree things and recognised the need to be flexible. We are taking the best of two great companies locally and can now deliver complete solutions with cross-over products to our customers. Cost synergies were a key driver in the deal – we cut costs from the business and were able to give money back to previous shareholders." Darren Scott-Healey, CEO, Peach Technologies

Mid-Range Deal of the Year (£10m to £50m)

Finalists: Aerial Direct – MBO; Benefex – BGF exit of minority stake; Dream Doors – sale to Neighborly Inc; Haskins Garden Centres – HSBC funding; Import Services – trade sale to Xpediator plc; International Logistics Group – sale to Yusen Logistics; Total Rail Solutions – disposal to Rutland Partners

And the winner is… Aerial Direct – MBO

A deal that relied on collaboration from professionals across the Solent region.

"We set up the company in 2012 and our aim is to be the leading telecoms supplier in the UK. Aerial Direct acquired Aerial Telephones and the MBO involved the two businesses. Our legal advisers Shoosmiths and BDO were amazing and NatWest helped fund the MBO. The speed of delivering the MBO was important for us and everyone involved played their part. Following the MBO, we have moved to new headquarters and are ready to double the size of our workforce." Dave Ainslie, COO, Aerial Direct

Large Deal of the Year (over £50m)

Finalists: ASV – sale to L3 Technologies; BOFA – sale to NYSE-listed Donaldson Company; loveholidays – sale of Meridian-backed company to Livingbridge Private Equity; Workdry International – refinance and growth capital funding

And the winner is… BOFA – sale to NYSE-listed Donaldson Company

A sale to NYSE-listed Donaldson Company that provided an exit for private equity firm LDC.

"We're delighted that BOFA won the award. The company has fantastic products and a great management team. We invested three years ago when we bought the family-owned business and invested in the management team with key appointments and new facilities in Poole to take the business to the next level. We also helped them to grow by expanding in the US and develop new products." Christian Bruning, director, LDC

"BOFA was under family ownership for 27 years and private equity backing for the last three years. We have had great support from LDC in terms of resources that have added value to the business. They sat alongside us throughout the journey. The people in the advisory firms on the sale to Donaldson Company were all important to us. Collectively, that gave us a very strong team to make the deal a success. We are enthusiastic and excited about the synergies with Donaldson." Tony Lockwood, managing director, BOFA International