Nursery chain sold for £45m

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Kidsunlimited, the Cheshire-based nursery chain, has been sold to a US-owned rival for £45m in a deal that will create one of the biggest providers of child care in the UK.

Bright Horizons, which runs independent and employer-sponsored nurseries across the UK and internationally, has bought Kidsunlimited from Lloyds Banking Group’s private equity arm LDC.

Kidsunlimited was founded by husband and wife team Stewart and Jean Pickering in the ground-floor of their semi-detached Victorian house in Wilmslow, Cheshire, in 1983.

It now has 64 sites across the UK, including workplace nurseries for employers such as WH Smith and Oxford University. Kidsunlimited has two nurseries in Sheffield and one in Leeds.

The deal will bring the total number of UK centres owned by Bright Horizons to more than 200, with the capacity for 15,500 nursery places.

David Lissy, chief executive of Bright Horizons, said the acquisition will give it a “well-established foothold” in the UK market.

Under LDC’s ownership, Kidsunlimited has opened 15 new nurseries and saw revenues rise by 40 per cent to £41.4m in the year to April 2012.

Its sites are mainly concentrated in the North West, London and the South East, as well as Oxford and Cambridge.

Co-founders Mr and Mrs Pickering sold their entire stake in Kidsunlimited as part of the LDC deal in 2008, which marked the second buyout of the group after Isis Equity Partners invested in the business in 2001. Bright Horizons, which is listed in New York, provides child care services to more than 850 clients worldwide.