Hobs Group secures further £4m investment from BGF

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Monday 11 September 2017

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Hobs Group has received a further £4m investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF) to continue the expansion of its 3D printing, reprographics, facilities management and legal support services businesses in the UK.

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Duckenfield: "We’ve got the right amount of headroom to go off and do what we need to do now"

This brings BGF’s total investment in the group to more than £11m – it received a prior £7m investment in 2014 to fund the national roll-out of its Hobs Studio business.

The Liverpool-headquartered group has experienced growth across each of its businesses –  Hobs Studio, Hobs Repro, Hobs On-Site and Anexsys – since it first partnered with BGF in 2014. It now has over 400 staff nationwide and a group turnover of more than £35m.

Hobs Studio, which offers 3D printing, terrestrial scanning and digital visualisations for architectural, engineering, construction and product designers, currently operates from London, Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow.

A larger facility in East London is set to be opened later this year to increase the capacity of this business. Hobs Studio recently completed the largest 3D printed master planning model for Barking Riverside, which is due to deliver 10,800 new homes in East London.

“BGF were happy with the first investment and the 3D business has grown well – it will grow from £3.5m to £5m this year – and we will shortly be opening the new facility for 3D printing as we’ve run out of capacity at our existing location,” said Hobs Group chief executive James Duckenfield.

Hobs Repro, which operates from 21 sites across the UK, is introducing new digital services such as AI-enhanced bid management systems and services.

A new centre was recently opened to support the nuclear sector in Warrington’s Birchwood Park and a new wide-format display graphics centre will be launched in Holborn, London to service growing demand in the market segment.

This arm of the company has recently invested in two HP PageWide XL printers – a 5000 for its Leeds site and an 8000 for its Glasgow facility. The 8000 was installed around two weeks ago and follows recent growth of around 15% in the firm’s display graphics work.

The group’s legal services business, Anexsys, has also experienced significant growth.

“We’ve developed some very nice IP in Anexys which we’re in the process of patenting, and a couple of months ago we won seven of the nine lots available in a major government framework for eDiscovery, including secret and top secret work,” said Duckenfield.

“The other two companies on the panel for that particular lot are KPMG and PA Consulting so I think that, for our size business, we are punching above our weight.”

The group recently completed the acquisitions of Face Creative Services and K2 Legal Support and invested in new ERP and web-to-print systems.

“The Face Creative Services acquisition has gone very well – they’re very much an integrated part of the team now and, in terms of the revenue that we were expecting from that particular transaction, it’s performed almost exactly to target – I’m very happy with it,” said Duckenfield.

“What we’ve demonstrated to BGF is that we have a model whereby we can grow a reprographics business through acquisitions and integrate them well and grow both the top line and the bottom line of the business.”

He added: “We’ve got an active pipeline of acquisitions – we won’t do the wrong deal but we are going to be proactive in the sense of looking for and making acquisitions. That’s part of the reason we wanted to have BGF on board – we’ve got the right amount of headroom to go off and do what we need to do now.”

BGF makes long-term equity capital investments in return for a minority stake in the companies it backs. The advisors to this transaction were DWF (for Hobs Group) and Brabners (for BGF).

BGF’s Neil Inskip, who sits on the board of Hobs Group, said: “Hobs is at the forefront of innovation in the 3D and specialist document related services and has experienced solid growth since our investment.

“We are backing a strong management team, led by James, that continues to deliver on its plans. We look forward to supporting the business through its next stage of growth.”

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