In their latest major tech-enabled health services deal, our CP Deals team provided corporate finance advice to the Antser Group as it underwent a management buyout, backed by YFM Equity Partners (YFM).

Midlands-based Antser Group is a leading, tech-driven provider of assessments and social care training.

It comprises of Carter Brown, a Mansfield-based provider of independent psychological, psychiatric and social work assessments for child-related safeguarding, and Antser Learning, a Birmingham-based, VR-powered training tool for front-line children’s care practitioners.

Antser Group has a combined revenue of £10m, and the buyout transaction will allow them to build on past successes and strengthen their mission to provide better outcomes for children, young people, families, vulnerable adults and communities.

Antser CEO, Richard Dooner said:

“Cooper Parry helped us with the successful sale of Tri-x last year, so we were keen to work with them again on the buyout of the Antser Group. It certainly helped that they already had a good understanding of our business, the sector and our working style.

The transaction took a big effort from all involved, Andy, Ollie & their team persevered to help get the deal over the line successfully. We all at Antser are now very excited for what lies ahead in this new chapter with YFM.”

Andy Parker, Corporate Finance Partner, CP Deals, added:

“The CP Deals team continue to show their market knowledge and deal-making skills in the health and social care and technology sectors. We’ve had a strong relationship with the Antser team for some time now, so it’s great to have provided support on this landmark transaction and we wish them every success for the future.”

Thanks to their strong credentials in the health & social care and technology sectors our Corporate Finance team has been involved with another major deal.

Signis Limited, which trades under the tri.x brand, has been sold by its parent company Antser Holdings advised by Cooper Parry. tri.x will be joining OneTouch to form a comprehensive healthtech and compliance group, backed by August Equity.

tri.x is the market leader in the provision of effective online adult and children’s social care policies and procedures solutions, supporting all Local Authorities across England.  It has been part of Birmingham based Antser Group since it was acquired in 2019.

August is a long-term investor into the social care sector, with particular emphasis on businesses with technology-led applications; OneTouch and tri.x bring together two excellent businesses serving the social care commissioners and providers in delivering a high-quality service. Together they form a strong platform with highly complementary software and product offerings.

Richard Dooner, CEO of Antser Holdings, said:

“Cooper Parry helped us complete an attractive sale in a relatively short timeframe, given the requirement to carveout a retained business. The prior relationship Cooper Parry had with the buyer helped us to quickly build mutual trust that we had the best buyer and helped drive an efficient sale process.”

Andy Parker our Head of Corporate Finance said of the deal:

“With our focus on both healthcare and technology and following on from our recent sale of Nourish Care Systems to private equity, tri.X represented an exciting opportunity to use our market knowledge and deal-making skills.  The team at Antser did a superb job supporting the transaction and committing to support the new business as it merges under August’s direction”

So here’s the thing.

The Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret is a seriously cool venue. It’s quirky and unconventional, for sure. It’s also symbolic of how the healthcare sector has evolved over the years. Back in the day, for example, the hospital would place a yearly order of 50,000 leeches – equivalent to 8% of its annual budget.

But in this appropriate setting, the talk around this year’s event was not nostalgic – it was firmly in the here and now and what lies over the horizon.

Cooper Parry’s Head of Corporate Finance, Andy Parker, introduced the proceedings with an upbeat statement around the resilience of the healthcare market – despite everything the last few years has thrown at it. And when he mentioned that the day’s second speaker, Clare Connell, wanted to share some forthright views on the sector and its future, he was not wrong.

As CEO of Connell Consulting, a strategy consultancy specialising in European health, social care, pharma, biotech, vets and education, Clare knows a thing or two about the sector and its trends. Her firm has been involved in more than £7 billion worth of transactions and refinancing in the last year alone.

Walking to the front of the old operating theatre to engage with the gathered guests, Clare mentions that – due to her obsession with all things care – many of her family believe she must be a direct descendant of Florence Nightingale. The Latin inscription above the door ‘Miseratione Non Mecede’ (For compassion not for gain), strikes a relevant chord. Now down to business.

Here are some of Clare’s key take outs.

1. UNPRECEDENTED LEVEL OF INTEREST

“This is a fantastic time to be investing in UK Health & Social Care. I really think the level of interest for each
transaction is unprecedented. I would say the level of activity is equal – if not greater – than in 2006/7.”
Interest from overseas investors has been seen across all elements of the sector – from children’s to older
people’s care (incidentally, Connell Consulting grew 60% *in Covid).

2. RECRUITMENT REMAINS A CHALLENGE

No surprise perhaps. But the challenge is being felt in all parts of the care sector. There is a dearth of quality management teams. Great ones come at a premium and there simply isn’t a talent pool coming through. The sector needs to do more to foster and encourage talent. What Covid has done though (small silver lining and all that) is create greater awareness of the sector – and the opportunities within in. As a sector volunteer herself, Clare has experienced this first hand.

3. DISRUPTION IS ALIVE AND WELL

First generation care homes are simply not fit for purpose. Like never before, an investor’s perspective evaluates the quality and suitability of the real estate. The market has completely changed with a move away from large remotely-located hospitals to residential care homes and purpose-built supported living. The benefits of adopting a ‘spend now/save later’ approach (very prevalent in Austistic care) is driving this shift to ensure children and young people are being cared for in the right environment. This trend looks well set to continue and is mirrored with exceptional demands in fostering.

4. A RECESSION ROUND THE CORNER?

Well, if you believe the press – yes. But once again, Clare points to the resilience of the market. “Do I believe a recession will have a major impact of the M&A activity in this sector. Probably not. There’s no question that the UK Health & Social Care sector is strong right now. Overseas investors see the sector as a great place to invest – a safe haven if you will. Huge funds continue to need targets to buy.”

A fast-paced Q&A with Clare and fellow speaker Nuno Almeida followed – covering everything from domiciliary care and ESG impacts to sector pay rates and recruitment challenges – and that was that. The first in person annual event for three years drew to a close. The audience reminded that when it comes down to it, the Health and Social Care sector is a people business – first and foremost.

A BIT ABOUT CLARE

Clare leads the team at Connell Consulting and is well known within the private equity and corporate finance world for her extensive knowledge of health, social care and education. At Connell Consulting, she’s worked on a large volume of substantial transactions, strategic reports and operational improvement projects in the health, social care and special education markets. She won the LaingBuisson Management Consultant Award in 2019 & 2020, and the HealthInvestor Consultancy of the Year Award in 2016 & 2021. Clare was also voted Sector Expert by her peers in the 2018 & 2019 HealthInvestor Power 50.

 

 

THAT’S A WRAP. FOR NOW

A huge thank you goes out to Clare for sharing her exceptional insights. On the day, our first speaker was Nuno Almeida, CEO, Nourish. Nuno dissected his entrepreneurial journey – from market identification, idea development and building a team to positioning the company in the social care landscape. You can find out what Nuno had to say here.

52 history-seeped steps.

That’s the journey into the timber-framed attic of the previous St. Thomas’ Hospital, home to the Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret and recent venue for Cooper Parry’s 4th Annual Health & Social Care event.

Climbing each creaky step, you can all but hear the muffled screams as pioneering surgeons operated on their patients in a pre-anaesthetic, pre-antiseptic, era. It was here too that the herbs were dried and stored to provide basic medicines.

How times change.

Fast-forward two hundred years or so and the focus for this year’s event is very much future facing and lasered on healthcare technology. Introducing the first in-person event for three years (we all know why), Cooper Parry’s Head of Corporate Finance, Andy Parker, welcomed guests with a simple theme: despite the pandemic, deals in the healthcare market have proved remarkably resilient.

In rude health, in fact. As if to underline the point, Andy’s team has recently advised Nourish Care Systems on their successful MBO backed by Livingbridge. So it felt wonderfully appropriate that Nuno Almeida, CEO of Nourish, was the annual event’s first speaker.

Speaking at the front of Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre, Nuno dissected his entrepreneurial journey – from market identification, idea development and building a team to positioning the company in the social care landscape.

Nuno adopted a highly personal approach to the key points along this journey and some of the game-changing lessons he learned along the way. Having already sold a business in 2009, Nuno was adamant that he wouldn’t make the mistake of doing something that wasn’t important to him. If he didn’t believe in the business with a passion, he wouldn’t take it any further.

Here are some of Nuno’s key take outs.

1. BE YOURSELF

Accept that as an entrepreneur you don’t have a work/life balance. Your team will; you won’t. Your life is your work. Nuno knew that he had to be true to himself. He wanted to spend his life in social care and ‘just happened to have a pretty good business idea.’

2. WHEN THE GOING GETS EASY

It will take as long as it takes. It will not be a sprint. In social care, everything is a 10 year plan. Nuno reflected on the occasion in 2017 when the offices were broken into and the building went up in flames. Crisis management was redefined. Nuno added: “At times like this, you need energy. You need to see the silver lining. These challenges become springboards . . when the going gets easy, no one cares. But it is when the going gets tough that people decide if they can really trust you.”

3. LOOK AFTER YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

It sounds obvious, but it’s an easy thing to overlook. With a mischievous grin, Nuno states: “The book I have most recommended over the last 10 years is Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things. He says, “a bunch of flowers and a regular day out is a lot cheaper than a divorce.” So true. Devote time to the important people around you.

4. OUR ENEMIES ARE NOT OUR COMPETITORS

Nuno is passionate about collaboration – even with competitors. He states: “Our competitors are not our enemies. Our real enemies are things like bad care practices and poor quality of care. Actually, there are so many ways in which working with our competitors helps us all fight these enemies. If people understand what you are trying to achieve, they are more than likely to help you.”

5. CHOOSING THE RIGHT PARTNERS AND ADVISERS IS KEY

When choosing the right partner to work with, Nuno was contacted by 27 different PE funds. He spoke to each and every one. Many were ordinary. Some were outstanding. But Livingbridge was to be a phenomenal partner for Nourish. With the scale required, the original angel investors were no longer able to help. Livingbridge understood how to deliver the next part of the journey. Nuno was equally positive about Cooper Parry’s role (always good to know). To quote: “I have to say, Cooper Parry was absolutely essential for the deal to happen. I can’t tell you how much stress you are under going through a deal as a founder. Cooper Parry reduced that by 90%. That’s not an exaggeration. Even the 10% I was left with was nigh on unbearable. The CP team became Nourish for a while. Don’t even think about venturing down this road without the right advisers.”

Then, with disarming charm and a clear passion for everything he does, Nuno wrapped up and left the stage to warm applause. Another operation. Another successful outcome.

DO YOU KNOW NUNO?

Nuno Almeida is the CEO at Nourish Care, a market leader in digital social care information and data insights. His background is in Data Science, a track record of building fast growth and sustainable businesses and an interest in ventures that deliver positive societal impact at a large scale. Nuno is also a serving board member with the Care Software Providers Association (CASPA), and chaired the Social Care Vision subgroup of the APPG for Adult Social Care. Nourish is a leading provider of digital care planning software to the UK social care sector.

Founded in 2011, Nourish is a cloud-hosted Digital Care Planning Platform supporting care providers and carers in the evidencing, and accessing of care records, and enabling better care provision using data insight and reporting. Over the past few years Nourish has grown rapidly and now serves over 300 care providers across over 1,800 settings in the UK from its headquarters in Bournemouth.

THAT’S A WRAP. FOR NOW

A huge thank you goes out to Nuno for sharing his fantastic insights. Our second speaker was Clare Connell, CEO, Connell Consulting. You can find out what Clare had to say about the trends, drivers and investment opportunities across health and social care here