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BGF backs merger of NWC and High Access

Nationwide Window Cleaning and High Access Maintenance have joined forces in the inaugural merger of two BGF-backed businesses, the first in the investor’s history. The merger creates one of the largest independent facilities management services companies in the UK, with a combined revenue of £30m. BGF has supported the merger with a further capital investment of £5.5m.

High Access’ Niel Bethell takes the role of Group CEO while NWC’s Thornton Tasker will become the executive chairman. Niel and Thornton founded their businesses in the mid to late 2000s and have pushed forward significant growth in recent years.

The merger was initiated by the two founders and BGF, bringing together the synergies and strengths of the businesses to create one company of significant scale. Customers – which include major retailers, hospital and universities as well as blue chip property development firms – can now benefit from enhanced coverage of the combined group and tap into an even broader service offering, from high-level property maintenance to access machinery hire.

Leeds-headquartered NWC, which provides window cleaning and specialist cleaning services, has experienced a £10m increase in revenue, four times increase in profits and has grown its team to 320 since BGF’s investment in 2014. The group has opened a new head office, added an operational base in Crayford, and completed three successful acquisitions.

Working-at-heights specialist High Access, which is headquartered in Manchester, provides building, roof and gutter maintenance as well as safety system testing and glazings, coatings and hire. After partnering with BGF in 2016, the company acquired Scotland-based Outreach Access and AA Access to open up in new markets including events maintenance at major sporting venues across the UK.

The new group, which retains the Nationwide Window Cleaning and High Access brands, will become NSS Group.

Thornton Tasker, NWC’s founder and executive chair of NSS Group, said: “Both Niel and I have individually worked to create businesses of scale, by investing in our employees and providing the highest quality service to customers. There are so many synergies between the companies, not only in our operations but also in our aspirations for the team and the future. Without doubt this merger couldn’t have happened without the backing, support and investment from BGF who have consistently worked with us to unlock growth opportunities, and make them happen.”

Niel Bethell of High Access added: “The size and scale of the opportunities for the group are significant. Our job now is to cement our position in the market, and make sure staff and customers benefit from our expanded presence, service offering and fleet.

“We have a clear direction for future growth which will create new career opportunities for our teams over the next couple of years. With the continued support and partnership of BGF, we’re looking forward to this next exciting chapter.”

BGF, which remains a minority partner in the combined group, has provided total investment of close to £16.5m to NWC and High Access over six rounds of funding. Both companies have been supported by BGF’s Neil Inskip, who sits on the board of the businesses, and Rhys Davenport. Stuart Lees has been non-executive chairman for High Access and NWC and will also continue in this role.

Neil Inskip, BGF said: “NWC and High Access are ambitious companies with best-in-class leadership from Thornton and Niel. Both businesses were on a growth trajectory before we invested; our role has been to help accelerate that growth through continuing to fund and back their acquisitive and organic strategies. This merger creates even more opportunities for the group, and we’re pleased to be part of that.”

Last month, BGF, which has invested £1.45bn across 225 growing businesses in the UK & Ireland, became the first and only investor to be honoured for Innovation in the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

BGF CEO Stephen Welton said: “Thornton and Niel are exemplars of the thriving entrepreneurship and ambition that exists in Britain. Their ability to think big, take risks and relentlessly pursue growth is a credit to themselves, their families and staff – we are delighted to back this inaugural merger of two portfolio businesses and are excited to see what the future will now bring.”

BGF has invested in 40 companies across the north with a total investment of close to £360m. This includes more than £100m provided to companies already in its portfolio to support new opportunities for growth, such as acquisitions and store rollouts.

BGF was advised by Shoosmiths; management teams were advised by TLT and tax advice was provided by BDO LLP.

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