From education to employment

Two Acquisitions for VT Expand Training Provision Business

The shipbuilding and support services firm VT Group has acquired two training and skills companies in the past month to further cement their position as one of the UK’s leading training providers.

The first acquisition was of the Hotel and Catering Training Company (HCTC), which is one of the leading work-based learning providers specialising in the hospitality sector. HCTC Ltd. has offices throughout the country, and was purchased from ECI Partners LLP. The second acquisition is of Touchstone Learning and Skills, which was purchased for £12 million and provides work based training for the retail sector.

Building a Leading Training Provider

HCTC Ltd. was purchased for a total cash consideration of £10 million, which sum will be payable upon the completion from the Groups existing cash balances. HCTC Ltd. had a turnover for 2005 of £14 million. Touchstone has annual profits of some £1 million, and both training providers work primarily through government funded contracts with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), Education and Learning Wales (ELWa) and Scottish Enterprise.

The vocational training market is valued at approximately £1 billion, and VT’s Chief Executive Paul Lester stressed that the acquisition of Touchstone was part of the larger picture, saying: “This latest acquisition, which builds on our recent purchase of HCTC Limited, is in line with our strategy to expand our Education and Skills Business.”

Gaining Hospitality

Speaking specifically of the earlier acquisition of HCTC Ltd., Mr. Lester said: “This is the next stage in our strategy to grow our education and skills business. HCTC is a major provider of hospitality training and has a blue-chip client list. Combined with VTs existing hospitality training business, the acquisition will create the UKs largest private training company in this sector and this will enable us to generate substantial operational efficiencies.

” It will also provide VT with greater geographical coverage,” he continued, “enabling us to be more effective in the marketing and delivery of our other training areas of engineering, care and leisure. We will be undertaking a rationalisation and integration programme for the business, the associated costs of which will be absorbed in this financial year and will offset any earnings contribution from HCTC. We expect the acquisition to contribute at least £1 million to annual operating profits for the financial year 2006-7.”

Jethro Marsh

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