Fast Lane, a German IT training provider with global operations, has been put up for sale, EducationInvestor Global can reveal, as its shareholders move to capitalise on rising demand for software developers.

This publication has learnt that Fast Lane’s management team has mandated bankers from Robert W. Baird & Co to marshal an auction of the business.

Baird has begun approaching potential investors about a takeover of Fast Lane, according to four sources, one of whom said that preliminary bids had been collected by the investment bank – though EducationInvestor Global could not corroborate this claim.

Baird, which worked on the sale of CATS Colleges last year, declined to comment when contacted by this publication.

A sale of Fast Lane, which sells online and in-person training courses developed by technology groups, comes as demand for software specialists continues to soar amid the pandemic, which has accelerated the digital strategies of organisations worldwide.

From its operations in more than 60 countries across Europe, Asia, the US and Latin America, Fast Lane generates earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of around €9 million, according to two insiders familiar with the business. Filings with Companies House show that its UK arm recorded profit of £238,000 last year, up from £32,000 in 2018.

Given its bottom line, Fast Lane will attract interest from technology-focused buyout groups, which, based on historic sector price-to-earnings multiples, will likely be asked to pay north of €70 million for the business.

One deal-maker with whom this publication spoke said that they had been approached by two pan-European private equity firms looking to learn more about Fast Lane and the sector within which it operates.

Fast Lane is a direct competitor to Germany’s Global Knowledge, owned by Rhône Capital, a sale of which was abandoned earlier this year after Cavendish Corporate Finance failed to find a buyer, as revealed exclusively by this publication. 

A source said that Fast Lane and Global Knowledge “both suffer the same problem: they don’t own the intellectual property”, as course materials are created and controlled by the companies’ technology partners.

“The courses are designed to be offered at a global scale, which means they’re generic,” the person said. “In the world of training, it’s always nicer to own the IP.”

A sale of Fast Lane would indicate revived interest among investors in Europe’s IT training sector, which suffered early on in the pandemic as providers grappled with constraints around in-person instruction.

In France, Fast Lane’s biggest competitor is Orsys, which, according to a source, “suffered during the confinement” phase of the pandemic in the first half of this year, when training centres were forced to close down.

Fast Lane offers a number of delivery methods, including classroom training, instructor-led online courses, on-site customised training, e-learning and mobile learning, according to its website.

The firm says its courses are designed to address a global shortage of IT skills related to products and services developed by the likes of technology giants Microsoft, Cisco, Amazon Web Services, Oracle and IBM, among others.

Fast Lane, led by chief executive and chairman Torsten Poels, also has an in-house consultancy arm that helps organisations digitalise their business models.

Fast Lane’s most recent acquisition was announced in January 2018, when it signed a deal to buy Hamburg-headquartered BOS-it & Co, a specialist in cloud-based web services and big data.

Date published: 8 October 2020

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