Founded in 1976, the NEC has grown into the UK’s live events business of choice for organisers, exhibitors and visitors, playing host to over seven million guests and 750 events every year. The NEC boasts Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre, the International Convention Centre, the Genting Arena and Arena Birmingham among its assets as well as caterer Amadeus and national ticketing agency The Ticket Factory.
The National Exhibition Centre hosts many of the largest exhibitions in the UK, including Crufts, the internationally acclaimed dog show, Spring Fair, the UK’s largest exhibition, and Grand Designs Live. Many other renowned events take place within the NEC venues and NEC has partnered with Merlin Entertainments to open their first Bear Grylls Adventure visitor attraction and a LEGOLAND Discovery Centre on the company’s sites. The NEC is also due to host nine sports as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
On 16 January 2015, LDC entered into a binding agreement to acquire The National Exhibition Centre Group (NEC) in a transaction which valued the business at around £307m. On 30 April 2015, LDC announced that it had completed the acquisition of the NEC Group from Birmingham City Council. The transaction transfers the NEC into private ownership for the first time and allows the business to more easily realise available growth opportunities.
As part of the transaction, LDC also acquired Birmingham City Council’s interest in Genting Resorts World at the NEC site.
LDC worked alongside the NEC’s current management team, led by Chief Executive Paul Thandi, delivering further strategic organic and acquisition-led initiatives across all business channels, both in the UK and overseas.
NEC's purchase by LDC won 'Deal of the Year' at the Midlands Insider Dealmakers Awards 2015. This deal was widely praised not only for its scale and complexity, but for the impact it will have on the NEC itself and wider Midlands economy.
In June 2017 The NEC Group was crowned 'Large Business of the Year' at the West Midlands Business Masters Awards in Birmingham. The event, which recognises the organisations that have made a significant contribution to the Midlands economy and celebrates business talent in the region, also saw CEO Paul Thandi pick up 'Ambassador of the Year'. These awards followed the NEC Group being named 'Large Management Team of the Year' at the BVCA Management Team Awards in May 2017.
Since LDC's investment, revenue has grown each year, the latest financial results for the year to 31 March 2018 reported revenue of £162.1m, up £4.4m (2.8%) on the previous year. Earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation (“EBITDA”) were £54.7m, up £4.9m (9.8%). Earnings have continued to grow since the year end with unaudited EBITDA over the twelve months to 31 May 2018 now standing at £60m, up £12m compared with the year to 31 May 2017.
The earnings growth reflects the group’s strategy to broaden the range of events across the NEC campus and city centre venues following investment in facilities and increasing use of customer data analytics to maximise new event opportunities.
In October 2018, LDC exited its investment in the NEC Group to Blackstone. LDC originally backed a management buyout of the Group in January 2015. Since then, it has supported a four-year transformation programme to enhance sites, facilities and customer experience and broaden the range of events across the Group’s portfolio, supported by significant capital investment.