In a world in which disease, disability and death remain ubiquitous, immunisation is important, with dedicated vaccination programmes having greatly reduced the burden of infectious diseases in developed, as well as developing, countries.
One of the major players in the global immunisation and vaccination arena is the European LifeCare Group (ELCG) – Europe’s largest independent provider of travel clinics and public vaccination programmes.
Founded in 1998, ELCG has over 50 specialist clinics in Denmark and the UK, where the company trades under a number of brands, including London Travel Clinic. ELCG also works for both the Danish and English NHS as a contracted service provider of immunisation programmes in schools and national influenza vaccination programmes. In 2018, ELCG vaccinated approximately 400,000 individuals on behalf of the NHS in Denmark and the UK.
With the travel vaccination markets in Denmark and the UK estimated to be worth approximately £270m and forecast to grow an estimated 7 percent per annum as global travel increases, ELCG’s management team – led by chief executive and co-founder Karsten Østergaard and chief financial officer Kristian Tuft – made the decision in 2018 to capitalise on this growing market by pursuing a rapid buy-and-build strategy in order to double their number of clinics over the coming years.
“We are proud of the company we have built,” says Mr Østergaard. “We see a tremendous opportunity to accelerate our UK growth and envisage the potential for over 100 of our vaccination clinics.”
As a consequence of this expansionary outlook, Inflexion Private Equity – a firm with considerable buy-and-build experience and ranked in the top spot in terms of private equity performance in Preqin’s global rankings – became involved and made a minority investment in ELCG through its dedicated lower mid-market fund, Inflexion Enterprise Fund IV. The team which oversaw the ELCG investment transaction included partners Tim Smallbone and Ben Long, and assistant directors Richard Wootten and Robin Senivassen.
“ELCG is a leading company in a rapidly growing niche market,” says Simon Turner, managing partner at Inflexion. “The team have strong experience in building their business both through acquisitions and opening new clinics. They are the number one consolidator in a fragmented market which also has scope to benefit from additional clinic openings. We look forward to working with them to accelerate ELCG’s already impressive growth.”
“Inflexion’s strong track record in sourcing and integrating add-on acquisitions made them an excellent partner for us as we embark on this next phase of our journey,” says Mr Østergaard.
A key facilitator of the transaction was London-based Livingstone Partners, which provided extensive buy-side expertise. “ELCG is the travel vaccination market leader and has a highly adept, long-standing management team driving its growth strategy,” says Karen Dawaf Harron, a director at Livingstone Partners. “With the backing of a skilled buy-and-build investor such as Inflexion, ELCG can continue to dominate market share in Europe.
“In addition to acquisition, there is also an opportunity to drive growth through diversification and expansion of its service offering into adjacent and complementary areas by leveraging existing sites,” she continues. “There is a huge market opportunity that is underpinned by strong demand drivers, with price inelasticity in a sector with high barriers to entry due to regulation, procurement economies of scale, and brand positioning.”
While the transaction ultimately proved to be a good experience for all parties, the process was not without its challenges, beyond those one would normally expect during an investment of this nature. “ELCG was previously listed in Denmark and had a tail of minority shareholders, creating complexities around the process that required adherence to Danish law,” notes Ms Dawaf Harron.
And now, with the deal long-since complete, Ms Dawaf Harron considers ELCG’s future prospects to be very healthy indeed. “The combination of a growing market, an ambitious and experienced management team and a supportive sponsor with a track record of successfully executing buy-and-build strategies makes ELCG’s prospects highly attractive,” she concludes.