The events organiser Hyve Group has become the latest UK company to be sold to a private equity firm, sending its shares sharply higher.
In a joint statement, the US firm Providence Equity Partners said it had agreed a buyout deal paying 108p in cash for each Hyve share – valuing the international conference organiser at £481m. Hyve had previously rejected two offers worth 101p and 105p a share from Providence.
Richard Last, chair of Hyve, said: “The board believes the offer represents value for shareholders and that Providence, with their knowledge of the sector and belief in the business and management team, will be a good partner for Hyve.”
Shares in the London-based company, which is currently organising 33 in-person events across 11 countries and employs more than 600 people in 10 offices, jumped more than 12% in early trading on the news to 111.8p.
A number of UK companies have been targeted by private equity in recent years as their share prices have fallen. One of the biggest takeovers was the £7bn private equity buyout of the supermarket chain Morrisons.
Hyve shares were worth 610p in January 2020 before Covid-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions sent sales plummeting. It switched to holding some events virtually, such as the Pure London fashion trade show. The company took a further hit a year ago when it decided to pull out of Russia, where it employed 206 people, after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. It has also sold its Ukrainian and Turkish businesses.
Hyve made revenues of £122.5m last year, up from £21.8m in 2021, and a pre-tax profit of £11.5m. It said a number of events had outperformed pre-pandemic levels.
Providence said it would support Hyve by providing the capital for expansion and acquisitions to help it realise its “full growth potential”.
The Hyve directors and a major shareholder Strategic Value Partners, which holds 16.4% of Hyve, have committed to voting in favour of the takeover, speaking for nearly 17% of the shares. If approved by shareholders, the deal would be completed in May.
Hyve, whose next events include Shanghai’s international hosiery purchasing expo and a fintech meet-up in Las Vegas in March, was co-founded by Mark Shashoua in 1991 under the name ITE Group. He returned as chief executive in 2017 to transform the business from a sprawling portfolio to focus on market-leading events.
The firm specialises in media, communications, education and technology investments. Its investments include the UK’s Ambassador Theatre Group, as well as the US firms Warner Music Group and Western Wireless Corporation (now AT&T Corp).
It has also invested in the UK events sector, having been the majority shareholder of CloserStill Media since 2018, and having previously invested in Clarion Events and GLM.
Providence Equity, founded by Jonathan Nelson in 1989 and based in Providence, Rhode Island, has invested more than $32bn (£26.5bn) in more than 170 companies. Nelson now serves as executive chair.