ISIS buys medical supplier

UK firm ISIS Equity Partners has backed a management buyout of Williams Medical Supplies, which distributes drugs and equipment to primary care doctors. It plans to double the business’s turnover to more than £100 million within five years.

ISIS Equity Partners, a UK mid-market buyout firm, has made its latest acquisition in the healthcare sector, buying UK-based Williams Medical Supplies for an undisclosed sum.

WMS is the UK’s biggest distributor of medical products to the primary care sector. It began as a distributor of vaccines, but now also stocks and supplies drugs and medical equipment to general practitioners, walk-in clinics and nursing homes.

The deal value was not disclosed, but the company has a turnover of about £47 million (€69 million; $94 million). ISIS contributed a £10.5 million equity cheque.

ISIS is backing chief executive Vince Kerr and commercial director Nigel Knight. Founder Robin Williams, who started WMS in 1986, will stay on for six months in an advisory capacity and then exit the business altogether.

The new owners hope to double turnover within the next five years to more than £100 million, a plan Kerr described as “very achievable”. “We are well positioned in the market and in a strong growth phase,” he said.

Liz Jones, who worked on the deal for ISIS, told PEO that the growth would be mostly organic, although the company might look at “selected acquisitions.”  Jones said the strongest growth was likely to come in the consumables division, which produces single-use items like plasters and bandages. This currently accounts for about a quarter of the company’s revenues, with half coming from pharmaceuticals and the rest from medical equipment.

ISIS targets healthcare as one of its five specialist sectors, as it looks to take advantage of the growing trend in the UK to move more procedures into the primary care arena, to reduce the demands on hospitals. The buyout firm’s previous deals in the sector include the £30 million acquisition of Care Management Group in 2003 and a £30 million deal for Paragon in February.

ISIS said this was the first deal from its fourth fund, although it declined to disclose any information about the size or status of this fund. The firm, which spun out of asset manager F&C in June 2005, currently has about £685 million under management.