LDC exits Clifford Thames in US trade sale

Clifford Thames, the leading provider of data services to the global automotive aftermarket industry, has been acquired by OEConnection Holdings the US-based e-commerce technology group, from its private equity owner LDC. 

Based in Chelmsford, Essex, Clifford Thames manages information on millions of car parts which is used by manufacturers and leasing companies to manage vehicle repairs and maintenance. Its customers include Ford, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Renault and VW Group.

Operating from offices in seven countries across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific and employing almost 500 people, the business was originally founded in 1948 as a publisher of local newspapers, including the Stoke Newington and Hackney Observer. It evolved into data services in the 1970s after selling off its newspaper publishing interests. 

LDC backed the £50m management buyout of the business in 2014 with a strategy to expand its services in new overseas markets. Clifford Thames subsequently made two strategic acquisitions, AC Autoconsult in Germany and a Ford Electronic Parts Catalogue platform. 

The sale generates a money multiple of 2.7x and IRR of 47 per cent for LDC, over the three year period.

Based in Ohio, OEConnection Holdings owns OEC, the auto industry’s leading provider of e-commerce technology for original equipment manufacturers’ distribution networks.  OEConnection Holdings is backed by Providence Equity and operates across North America, Australia and New Zealand. 

The acquisition will bring two complementary businesses under the same parent company, and enables OEConnection Holdings to benefit from Clifford Thames’ global network to further drive international growth. 

Calvin Barnett, CEO of Clifford Thames, said: “During our three-year partnership with LDC we have achieved significant scale and increased our revenues by adding to our core offering and expanding into new markets. 

“We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of efficacy and customer service, which is an ethos echoed by OEConnection Holdings.”

Chuck Rotuno, Chairman and CEO of OEConnection Holdings, said: “Clifford Thames provides a significant platform to drive global growth for our overall business. We look forward to adding its capabilities and products to our portfolio, alongside OEC, to support the global needs of our original equipment manufacturer and dealer network partners.”

Yann Souillard, Head of LDC in London and the South, added: “Since investing in Clifford Thames, we have worked in partnership with Calvin and his management team to drive the value of the business. Three years on and it’s now perfectly placed to add its impressive offering, industry expertise and unrivalled client base to the OEConnection Holdings portfolio, which will make both businesses better placed to capitalise on growth opportunities.”

The deal is subject to customary conditions including receipt of required regulatory approval and is expected to close by the end of June, 2017.

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Notes to Editors

  1. LDC is the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.  
  2. LDC backs ambitious management teams from UK-based medium sized companies seeking up to £100m of investment to fund management buyouts or development capital transactions.
  3. LDC invests in a broad range of sectors and has particular experience in Healthcare, Industrials, Retail & Consumer, TMT, Travel & Leisure, Support Services, Construction & Property and Financial Services.
  4. LDC has a UK regional network with locations in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle, London, Manchester, Nottingham and Reading.