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Travel management company becomes BGF’s second investment

BGF News 10.03.2012

BGF has announced its investment in Statesman Travel Group (Statesman), an independent travel management company providing a comprehensive service to blue chip corporate and private clients.

BGF is working hard to give confidence to fast-growing UK businesses by providing much needed long-term capital, support and advice through a seat on the board of these companies, and working with debt providers to unlock additional credit.

BGF has invested £4.25m of growth capital in Statesman and will take a minority stake and a seat on the board. BGF investment, together with additional funds from existing shareholders and support from Lloyds Banking Group, will enable the strategic acquisition of Commodore Travel (Commodore) and will make the combined entity one of the top 10 UK travel management companies in terms of transactional volume, with revenues approaching £100 million.

Statesman was introduced to BGF by Lloyds Banking Group, one of the Fund’s shareholders.

Statesman was acquired in 2007 by its current management team, Joint Managing Directors Mervyn Williamson and Jon Langley, both of whom have had significant experience in the travel sector and led the management buyout of Phoenix Travel Group, together with its subsequent sale to TQ3 Travel Solutions in 2003. Non Executive Chairman Eric Brannan is an experienced travel industry veteran, having held senior roles at American Express and Hogg Robinson, and has worked closely with the management team since 2001.

In a difficult market, Statesman has increased sales by well over 50% since the acquisition and has grown staff numbers from 40 to 75. The combined group will have a staff of c. 150 employees. The company has a blue chip customer base with strong representation from the financial services, professional services, property and media sectors.

Statesman is known for its high levels of service and for seeking out and applying innovative solutions to set the industry standard in service delivery. Recently the company formed a strategic partnership with a leading provider of travel and expense management solutions to offer clients automated expense reconciliation, providing a saving for its clients of approximately 70% per employee expense claim. It has also introduced the use of online applications to enable its business users to get up-to-the minute information on flights and trains.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, UK business travel and tourism spending is expected to total £26.2 billion in 2011 and to grow by 4-6% per annum over the next five years.

Stephen Welton, CEO of Business Growth Fund, commented:

“Statesman Travel Group is a brand built on old fashioned quality of service, combined with a highly innovative approach to new technology. This has enabled the management team to secure a market leading position and to acquire another industry player, to add to its blue chip client base and to expand its international capability. The business has also grown because of its ability to attract large corporate clients needing to keep a tight control on spending on travel and entertainment.”

“This is BGF’s second investment and demonstrates that we are now very much open for business. In some ways the two deals illustrate the breadth and variety of companies and circumstances in which BGF will invest. Both companies share one very important thing – a proven and dynamic management team with a clear plan to grow their business.  We hope that other fast growing companies will see how our approach to partnership investing might also help them. With a team of 50 people and five offices across the UK, we now have an established presence nationwide and we urge businesses to come and talk to us.”

Stephen Welton added:

“We are delighted that one of our shareholders, Lloyds Banking Group, has played an important role in this investment.  They have enjoyed a long relationship with Statesman and know the business well, and this key acquisition allows them to expand that relationship still further.  This is indicative of how BGF can work in partnership with banks to unlock more credit for SMEs whilst also ensuring a well capitalised and properly funded long term balance sheet.”

Mervyn Williamson, Joint Managing Director of Statesman Travel, commented:

“BGF has a compelling offering that will enable us to take our business to the next level. We wanted an investor, that would not only provide growth capital, but that would work alongside us as a partner over the long term.  Commodore Travel is a well-established business with whom we have much in common.   Together we can be a potent force in the travel management sector, optimising the service that we offer our existing clients as well as additional international companies in the future.”