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Established in 2004, BWML is the UK’s largest inland marina operator, with more than 2,500 marina berths across its 18 sites. 

With locations ranging from central London to rural Yorkshire, the marinas offer a wide range of services including residential and leisure moorings, chandlery, boat maintenance and repair services and, at Bath, a large touring caravan park. 

The diversity of this offer represented a fantastic investment opportunity. 

Drawing on the specialist knowledge of the inland waterways, our marine and leisure experts worked with the Canal & River Trust to undertake a strategic review of BMWL.

The purpose of this review was two-fold: 

  1. To ensure that the property titles were up to date and ready for a sale; And
  2. To ensure that the resultant marketing process could properly highlight future investment and growth opportunities.

In parallel with this review, we worked with M&A specialists from BDO to prepare the business for a sale and drafted detailed information memoranda. 

Using our dedicated property investment team, alongside our marine and leisure specialists, details of the opportunity were issued on a targeted basis to the investor and private equity markets, as well as to existing marina operators. 

We generated a high level of market interest, which was filtered via a two-round informal tender process. 

The outcome of this process was the selection of the UK’s leading mid-market private equity firm, LDC, as the preferred bidder. With a portfolio of 90 businesses across a broad range of sectors and a commitment to backing ambitious management teams like that of BMWL, LDC represented the ideal investor. 

Challenges

It was important to our client that the purchaser should have the right experience and knowledge to continue to invest in the development of the BMWL portfolio, in line with the expectations of their end users – those using the waterways.

It was incumbent on us to ensure that LDC met this need, and they recognised the importance of supporting and investing in the existing BWML management team to ensure continuity of the existing service, whilst also focussing on future growth opportunities. 

This included provision that LDC would support the development of the existing marina estate to continue to improve the customer experience, broadening leisure services and adding new locations.

Result

As a result of the strategic marine property advice we provided, coupled with our in-depth knowledge of the sector, we successfully secured the disposal of the company at a figure in excess of the initial guide price. 

We sourced a responsible investor which met our client’s requirements and enabled the Canal & River Trust to reinvest the proceeds of the sale to safeguard the ongoing upkeep and running of the country’s inland waterway network.

The investment will enable BMWL to grow its established brand to enrich the experience of its marina users through the delivery of improvements across the marina sites, as well as the addition of new locations to further strengthen its market position.

LDC was advised by DC Advisory and Gateley plc. Canal & River Trust was also advised by Bevan Brittan LLP and BDO LLP.

“We are delighted to have completed the sale of BWML. We’d like to thank Vail Williams for their in-depth knowledge and expertise which played an integral role in helping us to achieve our desired outcome.”
Stuart Mills, Chief investment officer, Canal & River Trust.

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