Freshwater resumes hunt for acquisitions after strong trading period

Freshwater UK has enjoyed a strong recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 downturn and seen trading in the first-half of its 2020-21 year surpass its pre-pandemic level.

The Cardiff and London based communications group delivered revenue of £1.59m in the six months to February 28th 2021, an increase of 7% on the same period in 2019-20 and of 57% on the immediately prior six months when activity was hit severely by the wider economic situation.

With strong trading continuing in the second half, Freshwater’s board has told shareholders that it expects revenue to exceed the budgeted £3.06m for the full-year.

The sharp recovery has restored profitability, greatly strengthened the company’s balance sheet and allowed the group to resume its search for acquisitions that will enhance its sectoral strengths and its capabilities in a number of specialist areas.

“We are on the hunt for potential partners who can add to our offering in two of the main pillars of the business – stakeholder engagement and integrated marketing,” says Angharad Neagle, who became chief executive following a management buy-out of Freshwater in 2019.

“On the stakeholder front, we’re particularly looking to make an acquisition that will give us more capacity to conduct consultations when big changes and investments are taking place in sectors such as transport, property, infrastructure, energy and health services.

“For integrated marketing, we are eager to add to our existing in-house expertise, particularly in growth areas such as digital, data and insight.”

“Shortly after the MBO, we acquired a niche healthcare consultancy, but our progress in delivering a planned step-change in the business was delayed first by Brexit uncertainty and then by the pandemic. Now we are confident we’re back on track and ready to invest in ways that will double the size of the business over the next two to three years.”

During the first half of the year, Freshwater provided services to 47 clients, including 14 NHS organisations, Thompsons Solicitors, the Welsh Government, Specsavers, Natural Resources Wales, Unite the Union, NASUWT, Carers Trust, Associated British Ports and British Telecom.

The first half also saw the group’s conference business, Waterfront, reinvent itself as a provider of virtual events, delivering revenue at 62% of the level achieved in the same period prior to the pandemic.

Freshwater has a 50-strong team who normally work from its offices in Cardiff and London but who have been successfully delivering services while working from home, in line with Welsh Government guidance. The group is consulting staff on future working arrangements.