IPO Promises Lift For Debut Canadian Tech Fund

Firm: Knox Lawrence

Fund: Midas Medici Technology Partners LP

Target: $100M+

Placement Agent: None

An IPO of Consonus Technologies Inc. promises to boost the debut fundraising prospects of Knox Lawrence International LLC, a six-year-old New York buyout shop that acquires IT services, energy services and other services companies.

This spring, Consonus Technologies, a Cary, N.C.-based provider of data centers, filed to raise up to $57.5 million in an initial public offering. The estimated price range of $7 to $9 per share, as disclosed in the company’s latest amended S-1 filing, would value Knox Lawrence’s 2.8 million shares at about $19.6 million. That would give the firm a healthy paper return on its estimated $5 million investment in the company, most of which dates back to May 2005.

Knox Lawrence, which has scored two exits so far on its first 10 transactions, recently hit the market seeking at least $100 million for Midas Medici Technology Partners LP, according to a source familiar with the effort. The fund is earmarked to acquire some 10 Canadian IT services companies generating EBITDA of $2.5 million to $15 million.

The firm’s road show has Managing Principal Nana Baffour and Managing Partner Michael G. Bucheit visiting the offices of both Canadian and U.S. institutional investors. To date the firm has secured backing on a deal-by-deal basis from institutional investors, trusts and wealthy families. It has also lined up co-investments from other buyout shops.

Before joining Knox Lawrence in 2004, Baffour was an investment banker at Credit Suisse First Boston, advising utility clients in the U.S. and Europe on acquisitions and financing. Bucheit, based in Montreal, formerly worked as managing director-Canada for investment bank WR Hambrecht & Co. A third executive, Managing Principal Johnson M. Kachidza, joined Knox Lawrence in 2001 after working as a utilities investment banker at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York and, before that, at JP Morgan Chase & Co. in New York and Johannesburg.

Raising a maiden fund is always a challenge. But somewhat audaciously, Knox Lawrence is already proposing to launch a second fund in 2009—an energy services fund of $300 million. Midas Medici Energy Services Partners LP would be earmarked for companies producing EBITDA of $10 million to $25 million, operating anywhere in the world, and generating at least 30 percent of their sales from utility companies. The fund would have a 10 percent allocation to clean energy.

Knox Lawrence acquired the business that would evolve into Consonus Technologies from energy company Questar Corp. for $20 million in May 2005. With an additional contribution of equity the firm helped finance a significant add-on acquisition earlier this year, setting the stage for the IPO.

For the first six months of this year, Consonus Technologies reported a net loss of $2.8 million on revenue of $62.1 million. According to the S-1, Knox Lawrence’s 62 percent ownership stake is poised to drop to 27 percent after the IPO, although its share count would hold steady at 2.8 million shares. Baffour is chairman of the board at Consonus Technologies, while Kachidza is a director.

Knox Lawrence acquires small- to mid-sized subsidiaries of companies in IT, energy, telecom, financial services and other rapidly changing markets. Earlier this year, the firm teamed up with Oak Hill Capital Partners LP and GenNx360 Capital Partners to acquire Vertex Data Science Ltd., a Liverpool, England-based provider of IT services, for £217.5 million ($448.6 million).

Both Baffour and Kachidza grew up in Africa, and the firm this summer launched an African Business Plan Competition in which second-year MBA students compete for a $10,000 cash prize and the possibility of landing seed money to finance their plan. Vice President Ken A. Globerman is chairperson of the competition. Reach the firm at 212-792-0923.—D.T.