Acquisitive Kersia has been building its reach over the past four years through an aggressive M&A strategy. This latest deal is the sixth purchase Kersia has made since private equity firm Ardian Buyout invested in the group in 2016 – and it is the second largest add-on the food safety company has made in this period.
The Holchem acquisition is being supported by additional capital from Ardian.
Thibault Basquin, head of Americas investments for Ardian Buyout, said this ‘major deal’ marks ‘a new stage in the group’s development. “The partnership with Holchem will enable Kersia to become truly global and Europe’s second largest player in food safety. The group is now more capable than ever to become a trusted partner in a rapidly growing market and will continue to work tirelessly to meet the global demand,” he added.
Building scale in the UK and beyond
Through the acquisition, Kersia becomes a leader in the UK hygiene sector as well as the second largest player in Europe.
Holchem will join Kersia’s global operations platform that spans across Northern Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and China.
Based near Manchester, Kersia said Holchem is ‘the leading provider of hygiene and food safety solutions and technology in the UK’.
With a turnover of approximately €55 million, Holchem operates from two industrial sites located in Bury and Liphook, primarily serving the UK market. A large majority of the company’s sales are directed to the food, beverage and dairy industries, with additional sales to the food service, retail, institutional and farm sectors.
Kersia has been building out its presents in the UK, which it described as a ‘key geography’. In 2018, the company first entered the market when it took control of Kilco, which serves the UK livestock sector. The group now plans to leverage Holchem’s ‘strong position’ to ‘provide leadership in the British food and beverage hygiene market’.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Holchem teams to the Group. Their DNA, the quality of their work, the experience of their employees, their solutions, their services, strongly oriented towards the food industry in the UK and Ireland, make them very complementary to our current operations,” Sébastien Bossard, CEO of Kersia, noted.
In the UK market, Kersia said its operations are ‘truly complementary’ in terms of geographies and sectors. This offers synergy opportunity, especially as country-specific standards and customer requirements become increasingly more stringent.
“Both companies share common values via their strong focus on environment and social responsibility and offer innovative digital solutions to enable their clients’ productivity,” the company said.
But the deal isn’t just about UK expansion. According to Kersia, the combined group will benefit from ‘major growth opportunities’ in the context of ‘high global health and food safety standards’ which are ‘continuously rising’.
Bossard noted that the deal will expand the portfolio of solutions Kersia is able to offer to its international client base. “This merger will enable us to make new solutions and services available to Kersia's customers throughout the world, and in the same way, will provide Holchem's local teams and customers with Kersia's solutions to help combat contamination by pathogens of the food chain in one of the world's largest food processing regions,” he said.
Stuart Middleton, managing director of Holchem, added: “We are very excited to join the Kersia Group of companies, which has become a global leader in food safety in a few years, and we look forward to contributing to Kersia Group’s growth, both in our home markets and globally. We believe that this important transaction will bring many opportunities to all our employees and our customers in the combined organization.”
Following this acquisition, Kersia will operate in more than 120 countries with a workforce of over 1,500 people and a turnover of more than €300 million.
COVID-19 and the importance of food safety
Kersia was formed in 2016 after Hypred acquired Antigerm, LCB Food Safety, G3, Kilco and Choisy Laboratories. According to the company, each acquisition was ‘carefully chosen’ for their respective technologies and leading – and complementary – market positions.
The company’s aim is to ‘improve the performance’ of the agri-food sector by ‘preventing the spread of animal and human diseases’, which are ‘often caused by contamination in the food supply chain’.
This clearly aligns with concerns that have been raised by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Kersia noted that both Holchem and itself have responded by focusing on areas of its business that have seen a spike in demand.
“During the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, both companies have been and remain strongly committed to supporting their customers and wider communities by refocusing operations towards the traditional products which have been most in demand, such as disinfectant and hand-hygiene solutions, while also continuing to support the rising demand for biosecurity protocols and enabling knowledge-sharing and best practices.”