BGF has agreed to successfully exit its minority stake in aircraft seat manufacturer, Acro Aircraft Seating. The company will, subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions including regulatory approval, be acquired by Zhejiang Science and Technology Investment Company (ZTC) for £55m. The acquisition will accelerate Acro’s access to the Chinese market. ZTC is the parent company of Zhejiang Tiancheng Controls Co., a manufacturer of seats for construction vehicles, trucks and cars listed in Shanghai.
BGF invested £7.8m into Acro in November 2015 and, as a minority partner, has backed the company’s management team since then.
Co-founder and CEO Chris Brady and the company’s management team will continue in their roles. Acro’s current shareholders will exit as part of the transaction and the returns made by BGF will be reinvested to support more growing companies in the UK and Ireland.
Acro was founded in 2007 by Chris Brady, Andy Lawler and David Starkey and is now a major player in the global market for economy aircraft seats. BGF’s funding supported investment in design and product development capabilities, supply chain and provided additional working capital to fund the company’s future order pipeline. In 2017 Acro became offerable by Airbus, extending its reach to new-build aircraft.
Acro’s headcount has increased by 50 percent since BGF’s investment while sales have increased by close to 20 percent and it has launched a new economy seat, known as Series 6 and new Premium Economy seat, Series 7. Following the acquisition, the company will continue its growth strategy and maintain its current brand at the same time as benefitting from ZTC’s connections.
Chris Brady, Acro CEO, said: “The acquisition by ZTC is a significant opportunity and vote of confidence in us and our mission to ‘Perfect Comfort for Passengers’. While we had not been actively seeking a buyer becoming part of the ZTC group opens up huge potential to reach the Chinese market, which is of major strategic advantage.
“We have very much enjoyed working with BGF since their investment. They have been a supportive partner and helped us to scale up our team and infrastructure, placing us in a strong position for future growth.”
Ben Kirby, BGF investor who served on the board of Acro, added: “Chris and the team have achieved an impressive amount in the past 10 years, scaling Acro from a start-up to a £30m turnover business in a fast moving and competitive market.
“This transaction marks the end of a very positive partnership for BGF with Acro and we wish the business well in the next stage of the company’s development.”
The deal was led for BGF by Ben Kirby and Mark Bryant.