Tour operator Shearings is reported to have been acquired from its management team by US property investment firm Lone Star Funds.
The Manchester Evening News and Travel Weekly report that the Wigan-based group has also acquired Equalmatch, the Chesterfield-based specialist firm which owns the Travelstyle and UK Breakaways brands. The move looks set to consolidate Shearings’ position as one of Europe’s largest specialist holiday operators and will complement its fast-growing National Holidays business by expanding its regional presence in the UK.
Lone Star Funds, the company behind the SSE Arena at Wembley, was previously a minority investor in Shearings. Shearings Group was the subject of a management buyout from 3i in 2014.
It is understood that the Equalmatch deal underlines Lone Star’s intention to grow Shearings’ business through selected acquisitions, with a future stock market listing or sale of the enlarged group understood to be likely. Shearings says the acquisition will complement its “fast-growing” National Holidays business by expanding its regional presence in the UK.
The change to the Group’s ownership structure sees former Travelodge chief executive and chairman Grant Hearn, already a non-executive director, take over as chairman, with Denis Wormwell remaining as chief executive. Grant Hearn already chairs another Lone Star-backed business, Amaris Hospitality, which owns a number of Jurys Inn and Accor hotels.
Shearings has also announced a 30% increase in profits to £9.1m for 2015, up from £7m in 2014. The specialist operator of escorted tours and leisure hotels made a pre-tax profit of £5m compared to a loss of £900,000 last year.
In the 12 months to December 2015, the group carried 1.1m passengers, up 2% on the previous year, and increased revenues to £201m, up from £200m – a record in the group’s 100-year history.
Shearings says strong demand for its UK holidays, together with margin improvements and operating cost reductions, contributed to the record performance.
The Group has also continued to invest in its infrastructure with increased spend on hotel refurbishments of £4.6m, that’s up from £3.6m in 2014, and the largest ever UK order of Mercedes Benz Euro 6 coaches with 46 new, high specification vehicles joining the 240-strong fleet this month.
Denis Wormwell says: “This was another landmark year for the Group, with a fourth successive year of improved financial results, continued investment in the business, new ownership and our first business acquisition since 2005. With the backing of a long-term investment partner, our best ever line up of holidays and hotels, a well-invested estate and fleet and the loyalty of our fast-expanding over-50s audience, we’re in the ideal position to continue growing our presence and position as the leading escorted tours operator.”