ECI in triple whammy

The last two weeks has seen ECI Partners, a UK lower mid-market specialist, carry out three transactions including two in the software sector. ECI has acquired healthcare software provider CliniSys for £61m (€89.7m), which followed the sale of software reseller Anix to IT services business Xploite for £10.45m (€15.4) last week. ECI has also sold Nuaire, a manufacturer and distributor of ventilation systems, has in a secondary buyout to Electra Partners.

The CliniSys acquisition includes an earn-out of up to £2m from founding shareholders, some of whom are reinvesting in the business. ECI has introduced Ken Briddon, formerly chief executive of Misys and chairman of Touchpaper Software as new chairman of CliniSys.

Established more than 20 years ago, CliniSys has more than 400 sites globally, supporting more than 100,000 healthcare professionals with products across the full spectrum of laboratory configurations. The company employs more than 200 healthcare IT professionals. Lloyds TSB provided debt finance and Investec the mezzanine financing.

In the same week ECI sold Anix, a value-added reseller of storage hardware and software solutions, to IT services company Xploite for €15.4m. Last year, Anix made an operating profit of £1.6m on turnover of £35.5m. Grant Thornton and law firm Burges Salmon advised ECI on the sale.

In a third deal the private equity firm generated an 80% IRR on sale of Nuaire to Electra Partners announced on April 30th. Nuaire is a manufacturer and distributor of ventilation systems. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed but ECI said that the sale generated an internal return on investment (IRR) of 80 percent on its original investment, in which London and Manchester-based firm paid €38m to acquire the fan manufacturer from founder Brian Moss in March 2004.

Bank of Ireland and Royal Bank of Scotland provided financing for the current deal. Bank of Ireland also arranged a debt facility to fund ECI Partners’ original management buyout.

Founded in 1963, Nuaire employs 350 people and has an annual turnover of more than £40m (€58.8m), slightly more than the reported £35m when ECI Partners backed the 2004 management buyout.

ECI Partners’ other recent investments in the IT and support services sectors include the management buy-in of Aerial Facilities, a radio communications products specialist, for £56m in January of this year; and a £12m investment in M2 Digital, a printing, copying and scanning support services business in September. In January 2006, ECI sold ClarityBlue, a UK marketing database business sold to Experian for £85m, generating an eightfold return.

Sandrine Bradley