New head of corporate advisory leads French Duncan to strong performance during pandemic

Iain Walker, Head of Corporate Advisory at French Duncan

THE Corporate Advisory team at a leading Scottish mid-tier chartered accountancy firm, has surpassed £110 million worth of transactions since the start of 2020 – while under new leadership.

Over the course of the past 15 months, the team completed close to 20 transactions, with a combined value of over £110 million. The firm experienced particular activity in the care home, engineering and e-commerce sectors, along with supporting major acquisitions in the utilities and security systems sectors.

French Duncan, which employs more than 200 people across three prime locations in Scotland, appointed Iain Walker as Head of Corporate Advisory in November 2020, taking over from the firm’s Managing Partner, Graeme Finnie.

Iain Walker, Head of Corporate Advisory at French Duncan, said: “Almost all of our portfolio of Scottish and international businesses has been impacted by the pandemic in some way. They have, however, shown great tenacity and resilience in pressing forward with their individual ambitions.

“This year will no doubt come with its own challenges, however, there continues to be demand and appetite for quality businesses. We are well equipped and well positioned to continue making positive strides and helping our clients to achieve their goals.”

One of the largest transactions was completed in September 2020, with the £14 million acquisition of Bristol Energy’s residential customer base, by Together Energy, one of the UK’s most ethically aware energy firms. The deal ensured continued service for customers and secured the jobs of 110 frontline workers who were TUPE’d across and remained in Bristol. Other notable transactions included advising on the sale of IDS Systems to M Group and the sale of Optosafe Holdings Limited to Orbis Protect.

French Duncan’s work helping clients access Public Sector support also delivered solidly within a challenging climate, with 16 diligence projects (both loan and grant funding) carried out, with a total project cost of £175 million.  

Clients also benefited from £10m of unlocked grant payments made available during the pandemic, which they were unaware of, thanks to French Duncan. These payments helped them secure the necessary financial support needed to survive the economic standstill.

Activity came in well ahead of revised expectations following the outbreak of Covid – 19 and was consistent with activity delivered in 2019 (23 deals worth more than £110 million), demonstrating the strength and agility of the firm’s corporate advisory service offering.

The results come at a time when the overall Scottish M&A market witnessed a significant reduction in the number of deals announced (65%) with values down by 70%, according to a report carried out by Experian, published at the end of 2020. Scotland recorded just 165 deals worth £2.3bn, compared to 465 deals worth £7.6bn in the same period in 2019. 

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