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Watson Burton sees increased demand for corporate team’s services

14 January 2019

Newcastle-headquartered commercial law firm Watson Burton experienced increased demand for its expertise in the corporate market last year, after witnessing strong interest from private equity investors in businesses across a range of sectors.

The number of deals advised on by Watson Burton’s corporate team rose by nearly 60 per cent from 2017 to 2018, with the firm’s support being instrumental in the successful completion of 110 deals last year – including major private equity deals.

Watson Burton’s corporate team employed its expertise across the investment landscape, providing specialist guidance to companies on securing new funding, and advising investors who are supporting the growth of entrepreneurial businesses.

Its work included advising QuantuMDx, which provides transformative diagnostic tools to healthcare systems, on its equity fund raising. QuantuMDx raised the funds from equity investors to support its market strategy and product development and the funding helped leverage non-equity diluting funding from NGOs including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Global Good. Watson Burton’s corporate team picked up the Deal of the Year (£2.5 million – £10 million) Award in the North East Dealmakers Awards 2018 for its work with QuantuMDx.

2018 also saw Duncan Reid, partner and head of Watson Burton’s corporate team, and solicitor Kirsty Adamson advise Sunderland-based behavioural marketing business SaleCycle on an £11.5 million investment by BGF.

Watson Burton was highly active in the pharmaceutical and biotech markets in 2018. The firm supported BGF on its investment of £5 million in growth capital in Northumberland-based contract research and development organisation Arcinova. This will be used to drive innovation in new manufacturing processes, aid international expansion and create new jobs at Arcinova’s Alnwick site.

Watson Burton also advised NVM Private Equity (NVM) on a £1.5 million investment in Newcells Biotech, a pioneer in the development of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (hiPSCs) for efficacy and toxicity testing in the drug development sector.

In another private equity deal, Marc Allison, a partner in Watson Burton’s corporate team, advised Wynyard Park-based water supplier Everflow on an investment in the company by private equity firm Perwyn.

In addition, Watson Burton was involved in a number of major technology sector deals in 2018. For example, Paul Wigham, partner in its corporate team, advised Gateshead-based intranet software specialist Orchidsoft when it secured £2.7 million of investment to help it boost sales and marketing activities and expand its workforce. The investment was led by Maven Capital Partners and included a £750,000 investment from the Finance Durham Fund, which is managed by Maven Capital Partners, and a £500,000 investment from Northstar.

Watson Burton also advised Maven Capital Partners on a £1.65 million investment into Cramlington-based Boiler Plan (UK) Ltd and in another high profile deal, the firm advised North East-based pub group Wear Inns – which Watson Burton has worked with since 2009 – on its acquisition by Aprirose, a specialist UK real estate investor. The complex deal saw BGF and NVM Private Equity (NVM) exit their investments in Wear Inns, and all shareholders (including the estates of the firm’s founders, John Weir and John Sands) successfully exit as part of the deal.

Commenting on Watson Burton’s work, Steve Nelson, co-founder and non-executive director of SaleCycle, said: “Watson Burton’s corporate team have worked closely with me for many years – and across a number of business ventures – and I turned to them again to support SaleCycle during the investment process.

“As the investment by BGF will help SaleCycle to underpin its long term growth plans, it was vital for us to work with a law firm which could provide high level expertise, reinforced by the experience of advising on multi-million pound deals. Watson Burton proved to be the right choice and the firm’s corporate team have played a crucial role in helping SaleCycle take the next step forward.”

Duncan Reid, partner and head of Watson Burton’s corporate team said: “2018 was a highly exciting year for Watson Burton’s corporate team. We drew on our high level experience of working on major investment and M&A deals to support innovative businesses in several sectors, and once again demonstrated our specialist capabilities to deliver quality work and service to our clients. We expect to be bringing this expertise to bear extensively in 2019, as we believe that private equity investors will continue to seek new opportunities.

“Our in-depth knowledge of the complex challenges that all parties can face gives us the ability to provide a guiding hand to companies and shareholders going through a strategic process, and our reputation as a trusted adviser has seen increased demand for our services.

“We have invested in a strong corporate team here at Watson Burton, where an in-depth knowledge of industry sectors, including technology, leisure and life sciences is combined with a true passion for our clients and a wealth of legal expertise.

“2019 will see us build on this further, as we make new additions to the team and continue to build the team’s reputation for the valuable work we do for clients, existing and new.”

Watson Burton, which also has offices in Leeds and London, delivers commercial legal services nationwide. Its core practice areas are Corporate, Employment, Real Estate, Construction and Dispute Resolution.

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