Founded over 100 years ago, Allen Ford has grown to be one of the UK's leading Ford franchise dealer groups. It retails both new and used passenger and commercial vehicles from 15 sites in the Midlands and South East of England. These sites also include two Kia dealerships.
Allen Ford's dedication to customer service and operational excellence has led to numerous prestigious awards from both manufacturers and wider industry bodies. The company has also featured in the latest The Sunday Times Top Track 250.
In 2013, the shareholders of Allen Ford approached Catalyst to assess their options to realise value from Allen Ford. The business was majority owned by a well-known entrepreneur who had over many years developed multiple interests in the automotive retail and fleet management market. The management team also retained a stake in the business.
Key to achieving a successful outcome was timely and considered engagement with the stakeholders in Allen Ford. These included the vehicle manufacturers, finance providers and employees.
What difference did we make?
Whilst our options review concluded a deal could be achieved with another UK dealership, the ability to drive premium value would be limited. Therefore, although the UK dealership market is very concentrated, and there have been few cross-border deals, Catalyst and the shareholders felt that a non-UK buyer would see most value from the UK platform and strategic relationship with Ford.
We worked closely with our international partner firms in Mergers Alliance to identify and screen a pool of parties from key automotive markets including the USA, Australia, Japan and South Africa. We identified the most likely buyers to be those that understood the quality of the asset, had strong relationships with Ford and the capital to grow the UK business further.
After presenting to a limited number of prospective trade buyers, detailed Heads of Agreement were signed with Super Group in July 2014. Super Group is a leading supply chain, fleet management and automotive dealership group with operations across Africa and Australia. Super Group is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Following a focused due diligence programme, the deal was signed to sell the business in October 2014 and completed following regulatory approval in December 2014. A separate agreement to acquire a number of strategic freehold sites separately from some of the shareholders was completed in February 2015.
The transaction was valued at £46 million and was the first automotive retail acquisition for Super Group outside of South Africa. Indeed, this acquisition represented one of the few cross-border transactions in the UK automotive dealer market.
Throughout the execution phase we supported a relatively inexperienced international acquirer to completion which was achieved in line with the Heads of Agreement. Allen Ford has a long term owner who wishes to invest in the business, whilst the shareholders achieved an attractive price for the business and the overseas owner they had initially sought.
Chief Executive, Camden Ventures