Essex ‘a prime target for overseas investors’

Nehal Patel, left, and Tim Blois of Grant Thornton’s corporate finance team in Essex.

Nehal Patel, left, and Tim Blois of Grant Thorntons corporate finance team in Essex. - Credit: Archant

Essex businesses are becoming a prime target for overseas investors, according to accountants and business advisers Grant Thornton.

The firm’s team in the county has reported a significant upturn in merger and acquisition activity, including four major deals involving buyers from the United States – together worth more than £100million – over the last 12 months.

The latest deal involved the sale of Shoeburyness-based medical devices manufacturer Medical Innovations to Cantel Medical Corp,a provider of infection prevention and control products from New Jersey.

This followed closely on another multi million pound deal in which Grant Thornton advised Zigma Ground Solutions, a Stansted-based supplier of temporary heavy duty commercial floor matting, on its sale to Checkers Industrial Safety Products of Colorado.

Tim Blois, corporate finance director at Grant Thornton’s new Chelmsford office, said: “Essex is an ambitious marketplace full of creative businesses looking to succeed and grow. The county is also home to two major airports plus Harwich International Port and Thames Gateway, and with close proximity to London, the international potential for these companies is huge.

“It’s a great market for transactions right now, he added. “The availability of debt finance is high and growth is being priced into valuations - there’s more willingness to pay tomorrow’s price for the right asset today. Buyers are prepared to offer a premium for quality companies and there is certainly an abundance of these in Essex.”

Other international deals completed by Grant Thornton in Essex over the past 12 months have included the sale of the Maldon-based Youngman Group, a supplier of access equipment and systems, to Werner Access Products UK Holdings Ltd in Pennsylvania. Grant Thornton advised the firm’s management on their acquisition of Youngman in 2005 and has supported them throughout their nine year journey to exit towards the end of 2014. In addition, Grant Thornton has also advised on the sale of Canvey Island-based vehicle salvage provider Holding & Barnes to NYSE-listed KAR Auction Services Inc, based in Indiana.

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Nehal Patel, corporate finance manager at Grant Thornton, said: “We are seeing a growth in appetite from overseas buyers, particularly US companies which have been relatively conservative over the past few years and built up a mountain of cash on their balance sheets which is now ready to be deployed.

“Essex businesses are bold, driven and eager to grow, making them prime targets for the right strategic investor – something which is clearly evidenced by the rise in M&A activity we are seeing across the county.”