Oakley Capital has acquired UK nursery operator ICP Education, formed by the merger of Cresswell Nurseries and ICP Nurseries, from Innervation Capital Partners in an off-market deal worth more than £170 million.

With 44 nurseries across England – most of which are in London and the Southeast – and 6,000 seats, ICP Education is one of the country’s largest childcare providers.

The investment was made from Oakley Capital’s fourth fund, Fund IV, which has invested £100 million alongside ICP Education’s management team, led by executive chairman Stephen Booty, chief executive Dominic Harrison and chief financial officer Clare Wilson.

In a post on its website, Innervation Capital Partners said that ICP Education records annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of £13.7 million. However, a source said that this figure has increased as a result of around six unannounced acquisitions completed over the past eight weeks or so.

The transaction is understood to be worth around £175 million.

Innervation Capital Partners has fully exited its stake in ICP Education under the terms of the transaction, it is understood. Other financial sponsors of the group have included US asset manager Ares, as well as Germany-based Nord Holdings.

Oakley Capital has invested in a number of education companies, including premium private school operator Inspired Education – which this publication revealed plans to go public next year – in addition to European tutoring provider Schulerhilfe, IU Group and ACE Education, a French higher education group.

Peter Dubens, managing partner of Oakley Capital, said: “Our experience investing in high-quality businesses within the Education sector has led us to identify the nursery sector as an attractive area which is enjoying sustained growth. We look forward to partnering with Stephen, Dominic and Clare, as they continue to grow one of the leading premium nursery groups in Europe.”

Date published: 1 June 2021

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