Console manufacturer snapped up in £200m private equity deal

A company which makes audio mixing consoles to broadcast the US Super Bowl and X Factor has been snapped up as part of a private equity deal worth more than £200m.

Calrec makes audio mixing consoles to broadcast the US Super Bowl, where Coldplay singer Chris Martin performed with Beyoncé and Bruno Mars last year.

Calrec, based in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, along with sister companies Allen & Heath and DiGICo, are part of Audiotonix which has been sold by Epiris, the investment arm of Electra Private Equity, to French buyout group Astorg for £203m.

Audiotonix designs and manufactures audio mixing consoles for live events and broadcast sound. Its three premium brands support live sound for a variety of purposes such as concerts, TV broadcasting, theatre shows and major international live events.

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Calrec, which employs 135 staff, designs and makes consoles and other equipment for the BBC, ITV and Sky in the UK as well as overseas broadcasters in the US, Japan, Korea, Middle East, and Australia. Its equipment is in 59 per cent of all HD trucks in the US, according to the 2017 Sports Video Group Yearbook survey.

It posted a £16.7m turnover in the year to the end of March 2016 and made a £2.6m pre-tax profit. Exports account for about 85 per cent of Calrec’s turnover.

Expanding into more international markets is a focus for the firm as it expands its product portfolio. Last year it launched its Brio console, a compact product, which has enabled it to move into new markets including church service broadcasting in Korea and the US.

“Being part of Audiotonix enables us to access economies of scale on purchasing and research and development,” said Kevin Emmott, Calrec’s marketing manager.

Epiris said the deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of this year, had generated a return close to five times the amount originally invested.

Epiris initially invested £42m on Electra’s behalf in the acquisition of Cornwall-based Allen & Heath in 2013. This was followed by the acquisition of Calrec in March 2014 and a merger with Chessington-based DiGiCo in August of that year to form Audiotonix.

Charles Elkington, partner at Epiris, said: “This has been a fantastic deal for Epiris and its investors, and clearly demonstrates our strategy in action. Through structured investment across three valuable brands we have created a global market leader with strong growth prospects.

“When we made the initial investment we had a clear strategy based on M&A, operational improvement and strategic focus. We have delivered this with two add-on acquisitions, a reorganised supply chain, and successful investment in sales and marketing as well as new product development. As a result the business has more than quadrupled earnings since 2013.”

James Gordon, chief executive of Audiotonix, said: “Epiris have been an extremely supportive and engaged partner. Their vision and leadership in combining the three businesses and subsequent contribution to the evolution of the group has been invaluable. We now have a solid foundation from which to push into the next stage of our development.”