Busy Bees Childcare buys Positive Steps nurseries

The largest nursery group in the country has acquired a group of eight settings in the South East of England in the biggest deal in the sector this year.

Busy Bees Childcare has acquired Positive Steps, which provides more than 600 childcare places in Surrey, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Kent.

It was reported earlier this year in Education Investor that the deal could be worth upwards of £25m.

It is the third nursery group that Busy Bees has acquired in less than a year, following the buyout of seven-strong Bush Babies in May and Kids 1st's 11 nurseries last December.

Busy Bees now operates 266 nurseries in England, Scotland and Wales.

Marg Randles, the group’s managing director, said, ‘We are delighted to welcome the Positive Steps group into the Busy Bees family. Every nursery in the portfolio is already providing exceptional outcomes for children and we are all really looking forward to working with the extremely talented teams in place.

‘It is an absolute pleasure to work with such experienced managers and devoted staff, all of whom will continue to play the most important role, providing quality care for the children in partnership with their families. Meanwhile we will be working very closely with the management team to ensure this transition is as seamless as possible for everyone involved.’

The deal was brokered by Christie & Co, which said there had been ‘substantial levels of interest’ from a range of buyers including national and regional operators, private equity investors, overseas providers and individuals.

Nick Brown, an associate director in Christie & Co’s childcare team said, ‘We were given a clear remit to maximise the value of this unique and valuable combination of both leasehold and freehold properties. Alongside maximising value and achieving the best possible price, and transaction terms, it was of paramount importance to our client that the new owner would share and continue with the Positive Steps ethos of providing high quality childcare in a nurturing environment to all children, families and employees and we are pleased to have met this objective.’

‘It is extremely rare for a privately owned group of this size and calibre to come to market.’

Paul Clarke, the former owner and founder of Positive Steps, said,  ‘After 16 years building our nursery business, we have decided that now is the right time to hand over the reins to a new custodian who can continue our good work.

‘As you can imagine, we were very precious about who we sold the business to, and I am confident that in Busy Bees we have chosen the ideal partner to continue the Positive Steps ethos. During our recent dealings with them they have been at pains to preserve those things that have made Positive Steps so special.

‘The past 16 years have been an incredible journey and I am immensely proud of what we have achieved. As I have always said, Positive Steps  biggest asset is its teamwork – staff, parents, the management team and of course the children. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all for their contributions and wish them very best for the future.

‘These are exciting times and I will watch with pride as the business continues to go from strength to strength under its new owners.’

  • Mark Traynor, corporate partner at HRC Law, who advised the vendor in this transaction, will be running a workshop on buying and selling nurseries at the Nursery World Business Summit on 8 November. HRC Law has developed a specialism in working with day nurseries across the UK as the sector has seen a high volume of deal activity and consolidation. More information and booking here.

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