FirstPort to join residential real estate services group Emeria as Equistone sells majority stake
FirstPort, the UK residential property services company, today announces that it is being acquired by Emeria, the European leader in residential real estate services, from the company’s previous majority shareholder, the mid-market private equity investor Equistone Partners Europe Limited (“Equistone”). FirstPort will operate as a subsidiary of Emeria, with its existing management team remaining in place and reinvesting in the group. The financial terms of the deal are undisclosed and completion of the transaction remains subject to approval by the Financial Conduct Authority.
FirstPort works with developers, investors, freeholders and over 1,300 Resident Management Companies (RMCs) to provide services to leaseholders. Equistone invested in the business in 2019 and since then has helped drive its significant growth, both organically and through a series of strategic transactions. This included substantial investment into a best-in-class digital platform called the FirstPort Way, underpinning FirstPort’s transition towards a digitally led business model, and the expansion of its service offering into new areas such as lettings and investor services. The active buy-and-build programme supported by Equistone included FirstPort’s combination with property and asset manager Mainstay Group and the acquisitions of Chamonix Estates, Arcturus Corporation and Freemont Property Managers. Today FirstPort manages 313,000 residential properties across 5,600 developments, up from 196,000 homes across 3,900 developments in 2019. In that same period the company has grown its headcount from c.3,000 employees to 3,800.
Through its sale to Emeria, which is owned (on behalf of its clients) by Partners Group, a leading global private markets firm, and TA Associates, a leading global growth private equity firm, FirstPort is joining the European leader in the residential real estate services market. Emeria operates across 500 branches in France under the Foncia brand and through a network of over 200 branches under various brands in the Benelux region, Germany, Portugal and Switzerland. Following the completion of the acquisition, FirstPort will remain operationally independent, with no impact on the company’s customers, clients, employees or suppliers. The existing management team remains focused on continuing to deliver exceptional customer service and further progressing the expansion of FirstPort’s service offering.
Nigel Howell, CEO of FirstPort, commented: “Our partnership with Equistone has been hugely beneficial for FirstPort and crucial to the major strides we’ve made in the scale, service offering and digitalisation of our business in recent years. We’re now extremely excited to be joining Emeria, the European leader in residential real estate services. We will continue to run the business according to the same key principles as before, focusing on delivering for our customers and clients while evolving our technical capabilities to ensure we remain at the forefront of the market.”
Tim Swales, Partner at Equistone, said: “It has been a pleasure working with Nigel and the entire FirstPort team through an extremely exciting phase of the company’s growth. In supporting a series of buy-and-build acquisitions and organic growth initiatives, including a transformational investment in FirstPort’s digital capabilities, we’ve been able to help the company substantially grow its footprint, further strengthen its service offering to all stakeholders and transition towards becoming a digitally led organisation with a series of exciting future initiatives. The business is extremely well positioned to continue its excellent performance under Emeria’s ownership and we wish them the very best.”
Philippe Salle, President and Chief Executive Officer of Emeria, said: “The acquisition of FirstPort, the leading property management company in the UK, enables French group Emeria to enter this market with immediate scale, turning the European leader in residential real estate services into the world #1 property management group. It is with great pride that we become established in a new country and welcome FirstPort’s experienced and successful teams. This acquisition allows Emeria to strengthen its requirements for customer service quality and to reinforce the Group’s positions through the acceleration of its digital transformation.”
Kim Nguyen, Partner, Co-Head Private Equity Services, Partners Group; Board member of Emeria, said: "The acquisition of FirstPort is an important milestone of Emeria's value creation journey. Our vision was to enter the UK at scale and become the number one player in the top three markets in Europe: UK, France and Germany. There are tangible synergies between Emeria's existing brands, such as Foncia, and FirstPort. We plan to build on these to capture new revenue streams and add ancillary services. Additionally, Emeria's digital expertise and strong integration track record in other countries can be leveraged to further expand FirstPort's footprint.
Patrick Sader, Managing Director, Co-Head EMEA Services Group, TA Associates, said: "The acquisition of FirstPort supports Emeria’s strategy to further its international expansion and lead the consolidation of Europe’s highly fragmented residential real estate services market. FirstPort shares many similarities with Emeria, notably the quality of its business model and market leadership position, and will be able to leverage Emeria’s best-in-class technology and acquisition know-how to continue its development throughout the UK.”
Equistone was advised on the transaction by Deloitte (M&A, financial due diligence and tax due diligence) and Travers Smith (legal).
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