Acquisition of IT services provider provides exit for NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance

Pictured are Will Clark, Julian Viggars, Ken Cooper, Neil MacDonald, Howard Joseph, and Craig Such

Azzure IT, the award-winning Sheffield IT services provider, has been acquired by Content+Cloud, the UK arm of Nordic IT services group Advania.  The deal provides an exit for NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, and which has achieved a return well in excess of 2x its initial £2m investment.

Founded in 2011 by Craig and Sharon Such, Azzure is a leading Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central provider and has previously featured in rankings such as Deloitte Tech Fast500 EMEA and the Financial Times 1000 list, which recognise Europe’s fastest-growing businesses.

The investment in 2018 – one of the largest ever made by the fund – was designed to help the company adapt its business model to market changes and to fuel further growth. Azzure, which now employs 58 staff, has since more than doubled its profits and achieved its best ever year in 2021. The sale will allow the founders to realise the equity value of their shares, and Craig Such will continue to lead the business as CEO for its new owner.

Content+Cloud, which has offices in London, Manchester, Reading, Cardiff, Milton Keynes and Cape Town and is the UK’s leading Microsoft-focused cloud, digital transformation and managed services provider, was acquired by Advania in December 2021. The acquisition of Azzure will allow the group to further build upon its UK presence and its Europe-wide Microsoft Dynamics team.

Will Clark, managing director of Regional Venture Funds at Mercia, said: “Azzure IT is a very well-run business with highly skilled staff and a dynamic management team. The fund’s investment helped to fuel the company’s expansion and boost profits. The acquisition will take the business to the next stage in its development as part of a larger IT services group, and will open up new opportunities for the team to take on bigger and more high-profile projects.”

Craig Such, founder and CEO of Azzure, said: “The investment from NPIF in 2018 was a strategic part of our much wider growth strategy. It enabled us to grow the Azzure business by building a strong senior management team and transition the business to a subscription model.

“During the last four years since NPIF and Mercia have been involved, the business has undergone substantial change and has grown to the market-leading force it is today. We have built an exceptional team and we continue to add to this. Joining Content+Cloud and the Advania Group is the next step in Azzure’s ongoing growth journey and this will take the business to the next level.”

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at British Business Bank, said: “Azzure is a good example of the type of business that the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund was set up to support and we are pleased to see the growth in employment and revenue which has led to it becoming an important part of a larger group.

“The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is committed to providing the funding needed to back the fast-growth companies in the North’s business community.”

Christian Mayo and Ben Taylor of KPMG’s Yorkshire based corporate finance team and Andy Sturge of Bexley Beaumont advised all shareholders, whilst Grant Thornton carried out vendor due diligence.  CRS provided legal advice to Content+Cloud, while Deloitte carried out financial due diligence and Armstrong provided commercial due diligence.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

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