Amor seeking £50m to fund buying spree

Innes: track record in takeovers
Innes: track record in takeovers
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ONE of Scotland’s fastest-growing technology companies, Amor, is looking to raise up to £50 million in a move that could trigger a change of ownership at the Glasgow-based group.

Scotland’s largest privately owned IT company is considering a financial restructuring to raise additional capital to fund a string of acquisitions.

It is also thought that a deal could create an exit for Growth Capital Partners (GCP), the private equity house that backed the £28m buy-out that created Amor in May 2009.

A source with knowledge of the business said that, although GCP was happy with Amor’s performance, the typical “shelf life” for a private equity investment was four to seven years. With Amor eyeing up a major expansion drive, fresh financial arrangements could be in place within the next 12 to 18 months.

Possibilities include bringing in new private equity backers or a flotation, but a trade sale is thought less likely.

Along with GCP, Amor’s senior management team – led by chief executive John Innes – also has a stake in the business. Other investors include Scottish Enterprise with a 5 per cent stake and Jacques Mottard, who retained 22 per cent of the equity after his company, France-based Sword Group, sold the businesses that now comprise Amor.

Based in the Art Deco India of Inchinnan building near Glasgow Airport, it has racked up some impressive growth figures since its creation through the buy-out of the former businesses of Aberdeen-based Pragma and Real Time Engineering of Glasgow, which were acquired by Sword in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

The group has posted rising revenues in each of its first three years of trading, culminating in a 32 per cent jump in sales to £45m during 2011. Profits were also up that year, rising by 17.5 per cent to £7m.

Figures for 2012 are expected to be released later this month. Meanwhile, employee numbers have surged from 330 at the time of the buy-out to more than 550.

Most of this has been achieved through organic growth in Amor’s three key markets: energy, transportation and the public service sectors. The group has completed just three acquisitions to date, spending a total of £7m on those combined deals.

Innes, however, has a considerable track record in the takeover arena. Having joined Pragma in 2001, he went on to lead the spree that built up the UK operations of Sword, completing nearly a dozen international mergers and acquisitions during his four years with the French group.

Although Amor has done relatively few deals to date, most have packed considerable punch.

One of its most lucrative was the 2011 purchase of FS Walker Hughes, a Manchester-based specialist software business focused upon the aviation sector. Its Chroma system to manage the movements of passengers through airports has significantly boosted Amor’s transport division.

Earlier this year, Amor signed one of its biggest aviation deals to date with an agreement to install its technology across 45 Scandinavian airports. The agreement with Norwegian operator Avinor will be worth millions of pounds over the course of the eight-year contract.

Chroma is also in use in other large airports such as Dubai and Toronto. Some 33 million travellers pass through Toronto each year, while Dubai is the fourth-busiest airport in the world.