15/02/2012 - 09:55

Skill Hire private equity boost

15/02/2012 - 09:55

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Skill Hire private equity boost
NEW DIRECTION: Steve Edgar says Skill Hire is planning to diversify into the resources sector. Photo: Grant Currall

EMPLOYMENT and training company Skill Hire is poised to step up its expansion, particularly through acquisitions, after securing the backing of private equity investor Banksia Capital.

Banksia has become a substantial shareholder after investing between $10 million and $15 million.

The existing shareholders, Tony Fitzpatrick, Greg Stocks and Robert Stockdale, have retained a majority stake in the business, which historically has serviced the building and construction industry.

Chief executive Steve Edgar said there were plans to expand the business nationally, and also to diversify into the resources sector.

“We’ve now got the funds and the ability to execute deals,” Mr Edgar told WA Business News.

“We’ve got great people and a great business model, now we can really push the business forward.”

He described the negotiations with Banksia as “quite a smooth process”, saying the two businesses knew each other from their involvement in WA Business News’ 2011 Rising Stars awards.

Mr Edgar said Skill Hire had evaluated lots of acquisition opportunities, and therefore had a good knowledge of industry valuations, which helped the negotiation process.

It was also helped by having Steve Birkbeck and Ian Murchison on its board, he said, with both men having brought experience in venture capital to the role, via their involvement with Foundation Capital.

Following completion of the deal, both men have left the board, with Mr Birkbeck focused on an executive role at listed company South Sea Pearls.

Skill Hire’s new board comprises Mr Fitzpatrick, Mr Stockdale, Mr Edgar, Banksia’s Mark Dutton and an independent non-executive director yet to be appointed.

Skill Hire had annual turnover of $50 million in 2010-11, with 150 people on its staff and a total payroll, including apprentices and trainees, of about 1,000.

Established in Albany in 1995, Skill Hire claims to have been the largest employer of building and construction apprentices in Western Australia.

Mr Edgar said its growth had been helped by its integrated business model; it is a Registered Training Organisation, a Group Training operator, offers recruitment services, provides Job Services Australia contracts, and provides indigenous training and employment services.

Mr Dutton said Banksia was attracted by Skill Hire’s growth opportunities.

“This is a classic Banksia investment to provide not just growth funds to a local private company but also offer experience in building local and national market leadership positions,” Mr Dutton said in a statement.

Skill Hire is Banksia’s fourth investment, adding to stakes in Croissant Express, Cool Clear Water and Pioneer Credit.

 

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