No exit for Fircroft chief

THE chief executive of Warrington oil and gas company Fircroft said he has no intention to float or sell the business.

Johnathan Johnson was speaking at the launch of Grant Thornton’s North West Ltd report which studied the fortunes the top 100 businesses in the region by turnover.

Across the board profits were up by 65% from £241m to £398m over the three-year period, and this trend has been enjoyed by Fircroft where earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose by 25% to £25m in 2013 on revenues of £898.3m, up 24%.

The business was founded in 1970 by Mr Johnson’s father, John, and is now active in 45 countries. Johnathan took over in 2012 and was keen to push growth through continued overseas expansion, particularly in “difficult” areas such as Iraq.

He put the business’s continued growth down to this focus and the capital and expertise that was introduced in 2012 through the sale of a minority stake to private equity firm Equistone in a £140m deal. But he is not looking for a quick exit.

He told an audience at the Radisson hotel in Manchester: “I wouldn’t sell the business at the moment. As long as I can see the opportunity and how that matches with my personal goals then it’s my intention to remain with the business.

“With private equity there are usually three options: you continue with private equity; do a trade sale; or you become a plc. For me a trade sale is out of the question and becoming a plc is probably not for me. I’m very hands on and like to be involved, I travel to other locations, I couldn’t see myself spending a lot of time in London. And we’re very entrepreneurial.”

He stressed that he had not gone down the US-style private equity route of over-gearing the business and was only prepared to sell a minority stake, “which is not very intrusive”.

“It’s been very good for me – as long as we’re hitting the covenants, that’s the caveat.”