Amor sets sights on rapid growth after £28m management buyout

ONE of the largest independent IT businesses north of the Border has been created following a £28 million management buyout that is expected to create 50 jobs by the end of the year.

The buyout of the Scottish IT services operations of French company Sword Group also ranks as the biggest private equity-backed deal in Scotland this year.

Newly created Amor Group will launch today with 2009 forecast revenues of 32m and 330 staff based in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, London and Houston, Texas.

The firm hopes that its "fast track" expansion, including a swoop on smaller rivals, will push that turnover figure up by a further 50m in three years. It plans to add about 50 new posts by the end of 2009.

Led by major shareholders John Innes, Scott Leiper and David Blyth, the new venture is backed by London-based private equity firm Close Growth Capital and Scottish Enterprise with debt funding from Clydesdale Bank. Sword Group will retain a 22.5 per cent stake in Amor.

The two Sword businesses, Aberdeen-based Sword Pragma and Glasgow-based Sword Real Time, will continue to trade under their established banners.

Innes, currently chief operating officer for Sword Business Technology Solutions UK, becomes Amor's chief executive. Blyth and Leiper will be chief financial officer and chief operations officer respectively.

Innes said: "This transaction is a solid endorsement of the quality of the Real Time and Pragma businesses and the exceptional talents of our people.

"To attract this level of institutional support in tough economic conditions is a measure of the confidence that investors have in Amor Group's ability to deliver our business plan."

He added: "Sword had previously announced to the market its decision to focus on software, so the Amor Group's approach to acquire Real Time and Pragma had strategic impetus for both parties."

James Blake, a director of Close Growth Capital, an offshoot of merchant bank Close Brothers, will join the board of Amor, which is based at Inchinnan, near Glasgow.

He said the management team had a "sensible but ambitious" strategy for growth.

"Over the next three years it is committed to increasing turnover by over 50m through growth of established services and through driving quick pay-back software sales.

"We were also attracted to the company's potential to act as a consolidation platform during what we expect will be an exceptional time to acquire small players with specialised knowledge at discounted multiples."

Graeme Sands, director of corporate and structured finance at Clydesdale Bank, added: "The strength behind Amor Group is not only the quality of its service offering but the depth of management expertise within its targeted industry sectors."

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