From accelerating the growth of a global player in the pharmaceutical sector, to supporting the development of some of the North East England’s fast rising tech companies, Watson Burton’s corporate team played a major role in some of 2018’s most high profile – and headline making – transactions.
The number of deals advised on by our corporate team rose by nearly 60 per cent from 2017 to 2018, with our specialist support being instrumental in the successful completion of 110 deals last year - including major private equity deals.
The impact of our corporate team was recognised in the North East Dealmakers Awards 2018 in September, which were organised by Insider Media. The team picked up the Deal of the Year (£2.5 million - £10 million) Award for their work with healthcare diagnostics specialist QuantuMDx. Watson Burton advised QuantuMDx, which provides transformative diagnostic tools to healthcare systems, on its equity fund raising. QuantuMDx raised the funds from equity investors to support its market strategy and product development for its ground-breaking portable DNA analyser, as well as performance studies that will enable the company to launch its first portfolio of diagnostic tests focused on women’s and men’s health. The funding helped leverage non-equity diluting funding from NGOs including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Global Good.
The award – and our shortlisting in several other categories – came during a year when the team employed its expertise across the investment landscape, providing specialist guidance to companies on securing new funding, and advising investors who are supporting the growth of exciting entrepreneurial businesses.
For instance, 2018 saw Duncan Reid, partner and head of Watson Burton's corporate team and solicitor Kirsty Adamson advise Sunderland-based behavioural marketing business SaleCycle on an £11.5 million investment by BGF – the UK and Ireland’s most active investor in growing businesses.
Commenting on Watson Burton’s work, Steve Nelson, co-founder and non-executive director of SaleCycle, said: “Watson Burton’s corporate team have worked closely with me for many years – and across a number of business ventures – and I turned to them again to support SaleCycle during the investment process.
“As the investment by BGF will help SaleCycle to underpin its long term growth plans, it was vital for us to work with a law firm which could provide high level expertise, reinforced by the experience of advising on multi-million pound deals. Watson Burton proved to be the right choice and the firm’s corporate team have played a crucial role in helping SaleCycle take the next step forward.”
Our corporate team also supported BGF on its investment of £5 million in growth capital in Northumberland-based contract research and development organisation Arcinova. This will be used to drive innovation in new manufacturing processes, aid international expansion and create new jobs at Arcinova’s Alnwick site – a major centre for pharmaceutical industry expertise in North East England.
Growth in the life sciences sector was also the focus of an investment, announced in July 2018, in one of Newcastle upon Tyne’s most successful early-stage biotech firms. Watson Burton’s corporate team advised NVM Private Equity (NVM) on a £1.5 million investment in Newcells Biotech, a spin-out from Newcastle University. Newcells Biotech is a pioneer in the development of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (hiPSCs) for efficacy and toxicity testing in the drug development sector: the investment is being used to fund staff growth and increase its development capacity.
In another private equity deal, Marc Allison, a partner in our corporate team, advised Wynyard Park-based Everflow on an investment in the company by private equity firm Perwyn. Everflow, which was launched in 2015, has capitalised on the de-regulation of the water industry to supply water to SMEs in the UK – and this investment will provide the catalyst for future growth.
We have seen substantial investment in the North East’s technology sector in recent years and in 2018, our corporate team again supported growth in this area by applying our industry insight and legal expertise to a number of major deals.
For instance, Paul Wigham, a partner in our corporate team advised Gateshead-based intranet software specialist Orchidsoft when it secured £2.7 million of investment to help it boost sales and marketing activities in the UK and US and expand its workforce. The investment was led by Maven Capital Partners and included a £750,000 investment from the Finance Durham Fund, which is managed by Maven Capital Partners and a £500,000 investment from Northstar.
Building close relationships has always been a key component to our corporate team’s success – and when one of Watson Burton’s long-term clients needed support during a disposal process, they turned to the expertise of our corporate team. Our team advised North East-based pub group Wear Inns – which Watson Burton has worked with since 2009 – on its acquisition by Aprirose, a specialist UK real estate investor. The complex deal saw BGF and NVM Private Equity (NVM) exit their investments in Wear Inns, and all shareholders (including the estates of the firm’s founders, John Weir and John Sands) successfully exit as part of the deal.
We were also delighted to advise Maven Capital Partners on a £1.65 million investment into Cramlington-based Boiler Plan (UK) Ltd. Combined with a £500,000 investment from the North East Development Capital Fund, this is helping Boiler Plan, which sells, installs and services boilers, to expand its operations further across the UK and build on the success of its customer-focused digital platform.
Duncan Reid, partner and head of Watson Burton's corporate team said: “2018 was a highly exciting year for Watson Burton’s corporate team. We drew on our high level experience of working on major investment and M&A deals to support innovative businesses in several sectors, and once again demonstrated our specialist capabilities to deliver quality work and service to our clients. We expect to be bringing this expertise to bear extensively in 2019, as we believe that private equity investors will continue to seek new opportunities.
“Our in-depth knowledge of the complex challenges that all parties can face gives us the ability to provide a guiding hand to companies and shareholders going through a strategic process, and our reputation as a trusted adviser has seen increased demand for our services.
“We have invested in a strong corporate team here at Watson Burton, where an in-depth knowledge of industry sectors, including technology, leisure and life sciences is combined with a true passion for our clients and a wealth of legal expertise.
“2019 will see us build on this further, as we make new additions to the team and continue to build the team’s reputation for the valuable work we do for clients, existing and new.”