BGF’s final investment of 2013 was in Essex-based Thames Card Technology Ltd (“TCT”), one of the UK’s largest plastic card manufacturers.
BGF’s £3.1m growth capital investment will enable TCT to acquire new manufacturing equipment, increasing capacity and efficiency. Its financial and operational support will also help the company to capitalise on the significant growth opportunities offered in the international bankcard market and the prepaid card market.
From its site in Rayleigh in Essex, TCT provides a full-service offering to organisations that wish to distribute plastic cards to their customers, including design and manufacture of cards as well as personalisation and dispatch. It services a range of markets with an international blue chip customer base across banking, retail, telecoms and ID. In 2013, TCT manufactured over 175m credit/debit, gift and loyalty cards, generating sales of £18m.
The business was founded in 1994 by the current MD, Paul Underwood, initially focusing on non-secure cards (e.g. gift, loyalty and membership cards) before expanding into secure cards (e.g. credit, debit and prepaid cards) and achieving Visa and MasterCard accreditation in 2000.
The increasing number of banking customers in the developing world, particularly in Africa, combined with the move towards chip cards presents a considerable growth opportunity. There is also strong demand for prepaid cards that are pre-loaded with funds; prepaid cards represent the fastest growing form of payment method in the past five years and the prepaid card base in Europe is expected to reach 418m in 2015.
In addition, the investment enabled TCT to add to its senior team and, at the introduction of BGF, Andy Caffyn, the former CEO of Deloro Stellite Group and Avery Weigh-Tronix, joined the TCT board as Non-Executive Chairman. BGF’s Head of Manufacturing Mark Bryant also provides operational support and Investment Director Rory Pope joined the board as BGF’s representative.
Paul Underwood, MD and founder of Thames Card Technology, said: “After 19 years of building TCT and funding growth from our own cash proceeds, I took the decision with my senior team that it was time to secure an injection of equity finance so that we could go further, faster, to realise our growth ambitions. There are significant opportunities to go for in the next three years and we wanted to ensure that lack of finance did not hinder us from doing that.
“Having made the decision to bring in external funding, it was then a question of which provider would suit us best. BGF stood out as not only can they provide us with the necessary capital but they will also offer us valuable guidance and support. One of their directors, himself an experienced manufacturing entrepreneur, is working with our operations team and a BGF representative will sit on our board. Undoubtedly we know our business well but this additional experience can only be a good thing for the company, its staff, suppliers and ultimately our customers.”
BGF Investment Director, Rory Pope, said: “Thames Card Technology is an excellent example of a business that is suited to the growth capital investment that BGF is offering. It has done exceptionally well to reach the position that it occupies today as a respected card manufacturer and a leading company in its space. It has been able to fund steady upward growth from its own balance sheet.
“However Paul and the senior team now want to see that growth accelerate and recognise that we can help them to capitalise on the opportunities in the international banking market and the prepaid card market.
“For BGF, this is an exciting opportunity to support a UK manufacturing business that is looking to grow its domestic and export sales and we look forward to working with the team.”
BGF’s Head of Manufacturing, Mark Bryant, said: “The UK has a tremendous depth and breadth of manufacturing capability across a wide range of sectors. Numerous sectors are experiencing significant growth and for many, now is an ideal time to invest. TCT recognises this and will benefit from both a strengthened financial position and the operational focus that BGF brings. This combination will accelerate the adoption of Lean Techniques and a greater drive to eliminate waste, complementing the excellent service and quality that TCT provides. I am looking forward to supporting TCT on this journey of continuous improvement.”