Issued: 10 May 2002

ECI acquires stake in leading consulting and technology services group

ECI Ventures has invested £10 million to take a significant minority shareholding in WCI Group, a management consulting and technology services business.

WCI Group was formed in 2000 following the merger of the consulting firm World Class International and 2GL, an IT Solutions business. The resulting company has over 300 staff based in the UK and US and generated sales in excess of £60 million in 2001. WCI helps businesses become ’leaner’, delivering tangible benefits through process redesign, web technology and managed services. The business has a particular strength in Life Sciences, providing services to many of the top global pharmaceutical firms and to the NHS in the UK. In addition, WCI has developed long-term client relationships with such firms as Microsoft, Rolls Royce, WH Smiths, Volvo and Cisco.

WCI was recently voted 24th in the Sunday Times "Great Place to Work" survey and came in first in the category "Consultancy Sector - Fastest Profit Growth 1997-2000" in the British Top Seeds Award in the Financial Mail on Sunday.

"I am delighted that we have secured this investment from ECI," says Paul Collins, CEO of WCI Group. "In order to continue our growth, we needed investment partners who could support our plans and provide additional skills. ECI has a wealth of experience in our sector and, together with HSBC, we now have the funding and expertise in place to realise our vision of being the most admired firm in our industry."

As part of the transaction, Andrew Vaughan has joined the WCI board as non-executive chairman. Andrew’s background was with Workplace Technologies plc, where, following a management buy-out from ICL, he led the business through flotation and its subsequent sale to NLC inc. Additionally, Sean Whelan of ECI is joining the WCI board as a non-executive director.

"The strength of WCI Group has been demonstrated over the last year when, despite a tough market environment, the business grew by over 50%," says Sean Whelan. "WCI’s combination of a first class management team, expertise in consulting and technology, and its strong client base provides an excellent platform for continued growth."

Debt finance totalling £8 million, including a £3 million working capital facility, has been provided by HSBC, represented by Ian Crompton.

ECI was advised Richard Spink of Burges Salmon (legals); Barry Carter of KPMG (financial due diligence) and Richard Holway of Ovum Holway (commercial due diligence). The vendors were advised by Cal Cochrane and Don Brown of the Geneva Companies Inc. (corporate finance), Nigel Craig and Simon Treherne of Blake Lapthorn (legals) and David Tipple of Grant Thornton (tax). HSBC was advised by Jeremy Cross of Osborne Clarke (legals).

This transaction represents ECI’s largest equity investment to date and reflects the firm’s continued focus on the UK mid-market.