Consortium of investors acquire outdoor study travel group in £467m deal

Mergers & Acquisitions | Midlands

Midlothian Capital Partners and a consortium of investors has agreed to acquire HB Education Limited, an outdoor study travel group for £467m.

HB Education provides residential adventure and study trips for schools, youth organisations and young people through the PGL brand, along with educational travel tours for schools and further/higher education students through NST, EST and Studylink.

In addition, Travelplus (Germany) offers language travel and gap year experiences.

The vendor was Cox & Kings, the longest established travel company in the world.

This is Midlothian’s third consumer sector deal in the past two years following the £210m acquisition of Dobbies Garden Centres from Tesco in 2016 and the £110m purchase of Park Leisure, the holiday home operator, in 2017.

MCP received financing support through funds managed by Ares Management Ltd. The existing HB Education management team will stay in post and plan to expand the business both in the UK and internationally. It currently owns 26 regional activity centres in the UK, France, Spain and Australia.

Neil Currie, chairman-designate of HB Education, said: “HB Education is an industry-leading operator within both the residential outdoor activity and educational travel sectors. PGL is a much-loved brand among teachers and students and has created lasting, happy memories – including many among our own families.

“We are delighted that the existing management team, led by CEO John Firth and CFO Peter Churchus, have agreed to remain with the company and partner with us.

“They have led HB Education impressively through its most successful growth period and their focus on customer satisfaction and team culture is a key reason for our interest in the group.”

John Firth CEO of HB Education, added: “We are delighted that MCP has been chosen as the next owner of our company. We feel that MCP’s values align strongly with those of our staff and customers and we look forward to partnering with them as we open a new chapter in our long history of excellence and growth.”

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