HomeBussinessWaterland agrees to acquire stake in cross-Border electrical wholesaler

Waterland agrees to acquire stake in cross-Border electrical wholesaler

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Waterland Ireland, the Irish arm of the Dutch private equity group, has agreed to acquire a stake in cross-Border electrical wholesaler Bellew Electrical, marking its fifth major investment in a company on the island since its arrival here in 2019.

The deal, the value of which has not been disclosed, will see Waterland become an active shareholder in the business alongside its founders, Oliver and Michael Bellew, who will use the investment to drive what Waterland has described as an ambitious growth plan.

Bellew Electrical Wholesale, headquartered in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, has three other outlets – in Drogheda and Dundalk, Co Louth; and Castleblayney, Co Monaghan – selling electrical goods wholesale to the construction industry. It generated revenues of more than €30 million in the 12 months to the end of July 2022, with profits topping €3.1 million after tax.

“There was a good alignment and a good strategic fit, where they had ambitious growth plans to be able to scale their company, but also to be able to professionalise the business,” said Laura Dillon, partner and team lead at Waterland Ireland. She said that in the past couple of months, Bellew had opened a new distribution centre in Finnabair Business Park, Dundalk, and brought in a chief financial officer.

In keeping with Waterland’s strategy, the investment will also give Bellew firepower to acquire other businesses in the electrical wholesale sector.

“It’s a very fragmented market where there’s a lot of great independent electrical wholesalers working all across the country that are quite geographically focused,” Ms Dillon said. Growth will be driven both organically – through Bellew’s new distribution centre – but “also hopefully through partnerships with other electrical wholesalers”, she said.

Waterland has invested in five platform companies here since 2019, including Meath-based data centre cable specialist MTM Engineering, Mullingar-based fire safety business Writech and the Silver Stream Healthcare nursing home group.

Through tentpole investment, the group has been involved in the acquisition of about 20 companies, generating about €350 million to the end of last year and employing more than 2,000 people.

Ms Dillon said Waterland did not have a set spending envelope for Irish companies and planned to continue to invest here over the coming years. The wider group closed its ninth fund, valued at €3.5 billion, in January 2023.

“That’s a pan-European fund,” she said. “So we all invest out of the same fund and that will probably take us about three years in total to fully spend, and then we’ll raise Waterland 10. So we have no allocations across individual countries.”

Despite a downturn in European M&A activity last year, Waterland was particularly active in the market here, and Ireland continues to be an attractive place to do business, Ms Dillon said. “Ireland, compared to some of our larger countries, is relatively small. But we also feel it’s a very entrepreneurial nation and we are export led so there are a lot of businesses who have the ambition to be able to scale significantly.”

Waterland announced its entrance into the market here with the acquisition of nursing home operator Silver Stream in 2019, going on to open 11 new units across the State. However, its focus has shifted away from the sector in recent times towards engineering and data centre-adjacent companies.

Silver Stream is expected to open its 12th nursing home at the end of this month, a 119-bed facility in Kilmacanoge, Co Wicklow.

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