UK mid-market firm ECI Partners has sold customer intelligence consulting and systems integration business ClarityBlue to Experian, a subsidiary of retail and business services group GUS, for £85 million (€124 million; $151 million).
ECI backed a £10 million MBO of ClarityBlue in September 2003 from Nasdaq-listed intelligent software provider Sand Technology.
The original investment was made from ECI’s Fund VII, which closed in 2000 with £175 million of commitments. Whelan said the fund is fully invested and has now returned 75 percent of called capital to investors following the sale of ClarityBlue and the realisation of restaurant chain operator Tragus (owner of Café Rouge and Bella Italia) in 2005.
Whelan added that Fund VIII, which closed in April 2005 on £255 million, has so far committed about £35 million.
Under ECI’s ownership, sales at ClarityBlue grew over 40 percent per annum, from £11 million in 2003 to approximately £30 million in this financial year, said ECI. The firm appointed Andrew Vaughn, previously CEO of Workplace Technologies, as chairman at the time of the buyout.
ClarityBlue designs, builds and manages marketing databases for large companies including Barclaycard, Orange, Wanadoo and BskyB.
Whelan said there was increasing appetite for IT assets. “We’ve focused on buyout opportunities and avoided investing in early-stage deals and start-ups, which have proved difficult for most investors,” he said. “The IT sector has provided a good hunting ground for growth buyouts and the exit market is very healthy right now with a lot of large trade buyers looking for interesting add-ons.”