The owners of nearly 40 UK nurseries have revived plans to sell the business by appointing advisors to run an auction expected to launch next year, EducationInvestor Global can reveal.

EIG understands that the majority shareholders of All About Children, which runs 37 early years centres, have re-mandated KPMG to explore a sale of the company.

A previous attempt by founder Russell Ford and Marcia Viccars to exit their positions in All About Children fell over in May 2019, as revealed by EIG, after suitors baulked at the £100 million asking price, which was predicated on run-rated EBITDA of £8.5 million.

Statutory accounts show that, in the year ended 31 August 2020, All About Children logged turnover of £5.54 million, down from £8 million a year prior, and a loss of £1.17 million, which widened from £370,204. EBITDA for the period was negative, at £495,000.

A fresh attempt to find a buyer for All About Children will follow a spate of consolidation in the UK’s early years market, in which private equity continues to be a key driving force. Earlier this year, buyout firm Oakley Capital snapped up ICP Education, which controls more than 60 nurseries, in a deal worth more than £170 million, as reported. Meanwhile, other private equity-backed players, such as Family First, an August Equity portfolio company, and La Maison Bleue, a French operator backed by Bpi France and Towerbrook, have continued to hoover up settings across the country.

All About Children could be attractive to both private equity funds seeking a platform asset and strategics pursuing scale, corporate finance sources said, one of which noted that a sale will be launched in the first or second quarter of 2021.

Founded in 2010 by Ford, a former chief executive of Asquith Nurseries, the group acquired by Bright Horizons in 2016, All About Children runs 37 centres in the UK, the majority of which are located in or around London, while a handful are situated further up the country in Nottingham and Gloucester, according to DayNurseries.co.uk.

KPMG declined to comment when contacted by EIG. Ford had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Date published: 4 November 2021

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