Consolidator puts agreed acquisitions on hold

Consolidator puts agreed acquisitions on hold

Advice consolidator Attivo Group has paused six deals and deferred more than £80m in acquisition funding as a result of the ongoing coronavirus lockdown. 

The company pointed to recent market volatility and national lockdown as cause for a "short-term" change in its acquisition strategy and has agreed with vendors in six deals to temporarily defer completion. 

As a result the advice firm has also deferred more than £80m in funding intended to finance the acquisitions, but Attivo said this remains available for use once the lockdown ends. 

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Speaking with FTAdviser Stephen Harper, chief executive at Attivo, said: "There is no way you can buy a business and integrate it properly in these circumstances.

"And I think it’s unfair to tell a client in the middle of all this market volatility, when you’ve been their IFA for ten or 20 years, that you are selling the business and give them a new adviser." 

Mr Harper said the company was, however, pushing ahead with one deal which had exchanged and was near completion. 

He added: "We agreed with all the vendors that we would defer the acquisitions and it’s only the right decision to make.

"Then I agreed with the funders to defer drawing the money down, because why would we draw the money down just to have it sit on a balance sheet."

The UK has been in lockdown since March 23 in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, with the Financial Conduct Authority this week calling on financial advisers to work from home and stop all face-to-face client meetings. 

Mr Harper said: "We've got the government telling us we shouldn’t be completing on house transactions, we’re all in lockdown and before that the advice was to stay at home.

"I know we are not alone in not acquiring businesses at the moment. Everything is in place ready to draw down funding and once lockdown is over and we feel it is appropriate to buy businesses we will draw the money down and proceed with acquisitions.

"Right now it would have been totally the wrong thing to do for clients and also for the vendors." 

FTAdviser understands Attivo is set to receive its funding in three stages, with an initial tranche of £30m, followed by a second tranche of £50m and an additional £50m available in 2021 if required. 

The advice firm has closed its three offices and placed 36 employees who are currently without work on furlough until the end of the lockdown period, which it said had avoided redundancies.

Advisers at Attivo are now communicating with clients entirely via phone calls or video conferencing and the firm is set to launch its client portal in April. 

Mr Harper said: "It was obvious where this was going and there was no way I was prepared to put my employees' or the clients' health at risk by continuing with client meetings."