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Newcastle College bags Carter and Carter

publication date: Mar 31, 2008

The UK’s largest and most ambitious college of Further Education, Newcastle College, has acquired the majority of Carter and Carter’s operations – most of which are funded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) – for an undisclosed price.

The speed of the transaction – the company only went into administration on 11 March 2008 – reflects the need to ensure that the thousands of people on government-backed training schemes can continue their courses without further interruption. About 1,500 jobs will be saved out of the total C&C workforce of 2,200. Administrators Deloitte received a number of enquiries from interested parties but no one would take the majority of the group. If the deal with Newcastle College had not been struck it is possible that there would have been no value left within the business. Shareholders in the company will be left with nothing from the sale.

The acquisition will expand Newcastle College’s geographical reach and the deal will push the institution’s annual income up from £82m to about £150m. The deal follows the College’s recent merger with Skelmersdale and Ormskirk College, also in Lancashire, and its acquisition of Training West Lancashire in December 2007.

The deal follows C&C’s dramatic descent into administration following the death of its founder, Philip Carter in May 2007. At its peak in April 2007 the company was valued at £526m; when its shares were suspended in October its valuation had tumbled to £34m. The final straw came when, after several months of negotiations, the consortium of banks which included Barclays, Lloyds TSB and HBOS, finally pulled the plug with borrowing requirements expected to hit £175m in July, up £46m from mid-January.

C&C’s over-ambitious growth strategy through acquisition unravelled due to inadequate internal controls and ineffective business strategy. Since floating in 2005, C&C spent over £100m on acquisitions including Retail Motor Industry Training (£25.5m), ASSA Training and Learning (£24.2), Constant Browning Edmonds (£16.5m), Fern Group (£13.6m), Quantica Training (£10.2m), NTP (£7.9m) and IMS (£3.5m). In some deals the consideration was satisfied by both cash and shares.

Hopefully other providers will learn the lessons from C&C’s demise and realise that the £4bn available from the LSC is not easy money to earn.


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