Huntsworth agrees £524m sale to private equity firm

Huntsworth has agreed to sell to private equity firm CD&R in a deal that values the Grayling, Citigate and Red owner at £524m.

The deal represents a price of 108p per share in the group, which is a premium of about 50 per cent on the share price at close of trading on 2 March (72p). The valuation is 10.8 times Huntsworth's underlying earnings (EBITDA) in 2019.

Huntsworth this morning announced a rise in pre-tax profit of 27 per cent to £39.1m on revenue up 18 per cent to £264.9m.

In a statement to the stock market, Huntsworth said the boards of CD&R and Huntsworth have "reached agreement" on the terms of the offer, which requres approval from Huntsworth shareholders at its AGM, expected in May. It also requires approval from various national competition authorities.

CD&R has invested in a number of firms in the medical sector, while Huntsworth has been growing its medical and pharma marcomms business in recent years. Like-for-like revenue growth in its Medical arm was 8.5 per cent in 2019, reaching £45.1m.

The statement says CD&R "believes Huntsworth is a well-positioned healthcare/pharma outsourced services platform".

It said Huntsworth's "underlying markets are attractive and underpinned by long term, stable pharma-related trends".

"These include demographic and economic growth, increased outsourcing from large and small companies, volume of new product launches, shift in new products to more specialised drugs (where targeted, thoughtful engagement is key), and increasing complexity and emergence of new marketing channels."

The statement said that with CD&R's support, "Huntsworth has the opportunity to achieve additional strategic objectives including opportunistic pursuit of strategic acquisitions".

It said it "intends to assist Huntsworth operationally and to leverage its ability to access capital to facilitate future acquisitions by Huntsworth".

Liam Fitzgerald, adviser to CD&R funds and former CEO of UDG Healthcare plc, said: "We believe Huntsworth represents a strong platform with a highly skilled workforce and a broad and differentiated digitally-driven offering to support its customers' growing demand. Our vision for Huntsworth is shared with management, who have demonstrated an ability to drive organic growth and execute accretive add-on acquisitions."

Huntsworth chairman David Lowden said: "Huntsworth has transformed over the past few years into a growing and dynamic healthcare and communications group. Our strategic focus has always been on investing to develop a full service, digitally driven offering to support our customers.

"Whilst we believe that Huntsworth is strongly positioned as an independent listed company, the all-cash offer from CD&R represents a compelling opportunity for shareholders to realise an attractive cash value in respect of their shares. In addition, the board believes CD&R will be an excellent partner for Huntsworth, its employees and customers."

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