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Advent considering swoop on another British tech firm

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Fears: Private equity firm Advent snapped up Cobham and Ultra Electronics

US private equity predator Advent International considering swoop on yet another British tech firm, according to sources

US private equity predator Advent International is considering a swoop on yet another British tech firm, according to The Mail on Sunday’s sources. 

The buyout giant is understood to be among a group of companies circling fraud prevention software specialist GB Group, prompting speculation there could be a bidding war. Others said to be interested are Hg, KKR, Cinven and Permira. 

One source said Advent and KKR had been eyeing GB Group on and off over the past year. 

Fears: Private equity firm Advent snapped up Cobham and Ultra Electronics

Fears: Private equity firm Advent snapped up Cobham and Ultra Electronics

Advent would be a controversial bidder, following its contentious takeovers of pioneering aerospace and defence groups Cobham and Ultra Electronics, which many MPs, experts and military figures called to be blocked. 

Cheshire-based GB Group – worth £1.5billion – was founded in 1989 and is one of the biggest firms listed on the AIM market. It provides fraud protection technology for corporations, including Revolut, which delivers online banking services, and skincare group Charlotte Tilbury. This month it confirmed it is mulling a cash offer from private equity firm GTCR. 

The Chicago-based suitor has until 5pm on October 4 to make a firm offer or walk away. 

GTCR is in pole position because of its experience in the sector, having owned UK rival Callcredit, one source said, adding that GTCR had a longstanding relationship with GB Group and is confident about financing a deal. 

But another source said it could end in a bidding war with private equity firms actively considering bids. Interest in GB Group follows a wave of possible offers for UK technology firms over the summer. They have included cybersecurity firm Darktrace, MicroFocus International, and Aveva, the FTSE100 industrial software provider. 

US bidders are trawling Britain for deals as the falling pound makes it cheaper for them to buy companies. 

Advent has developed a reputation for hoovering up British firms following its £4billion deal to take trailblazing air-to-air refuelling developer Cobham private in 2020. 

It promised to be a long-term investor after uproar from critics, such as the former head of the Royal Navy Admiral Lord West, led to restrictions being put on the deal. But it carved up and sold off much of the firm within 18 months. 

It recently completed a £2.6billion takeover of Ultra Electronics, which makes submarine-hunting sonobuoys. Fresh fears have been raised about the future of Ultra after Advent recently told staff some of its divisions were ‘not best located under the UK flag’, according to The Sun. 

The Mail on Sunday can reveal profit at Advent International’s UK arm have soared by 150 per cent. It made £14.7million in 2021, according to its most recent accounts, against £5.9million in 2020. 

All parties were contacted for comment.

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