Scottish firms Spotless and FirstGroup seal cross-Border acquisitions

Companies expand English presence with latest takeover deals.
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An Edinburgh-headquartered commercial cleaning business has acquired an English rival in a move that adds a further 100 staff and pushes its turnover north of £20 million.

Spotless Commercial Cleaning, which was founded in 1988 and has been growing its UK presence, has bought Ashdown Cleaning on undisclosed terms. Launched in 2010, Norwich-based Ashdown has grown a strong presence across Norfolk and East Anglia servicing a range of commercial clients in office buildings, business parks, medical and dental practices, manufacturing facilities and retail premises.

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The addition of the business, purchased from its retiring founder, bolsters Spotless’ revenues, taking its annual turnover beyond £20m. Acquiring Ashdown also further expands the Scots firm’s footprint across East Anglia where it has a number of existing commercial cleaning contracts in place. It follows acquisitions by the company last year when it bought Manchester-based Purity Group and Salisbury-based Clearsprings Support Services.

Carron Henley and Roger Green of Edinburgh-headquartered Spotless Commercial Cleaning.Carron Henley and Roger Green of Edinburgh-headquartered Spotless Commercial Cleaning.
Carron Henley and Roger Green of Edinburgh-headquartered Spotless Commercial Cleaning.

Carron Henley, chief executive of Spotless, which now operates more than 1,700 contracts across the UK, said: “Ashdown Cleaning has established a strong base and an excellent reputation with its clients across Norfolk and the wider East Anglia area. We’re delighted to welcome their great people to the Spotless team as we look to grow our footprint across the region and in other parts of the UK.”

Chairman and founder Roger Green added: “The office cleaning market is still in flux. Despite this, Spotless continues to go from strength to strength. This latest acquisition significantly enhances our market presence in East Anglia and builds on our growth strategy focused on expanding our presence to cover every UK postcode.”

Meanwhile, another new cross-Border deal has seen Aberdeen-headquartered transport giant FirstGroup acquire coach operator York Pullman Bus Company. Bosses noted that York Pullman has a strong presence in regional and adjacent services operations in York and surrounding towns in North Yorkshire. The deal “plays strongly” into the Scottish group’s strategy, they added, providing “profitable growth opportunities” in adjacent services contracted and commercial markets, with the ability to develop this into other locations across the UK.

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York Pullman provides home-to-school and college contracted services and private hire operations including rail replacement services, and operates a small number of local bus routes on behalf of several local authorities, complementary to the operations of First Bus in York. It has a mixed fleet of more than 130 vehicles.

FirstGroup chief executive Graham Sutherland said: “A key pillar of our strategy is to grow and diversify our portfolio. The acquisition of York Pullman, a long- established, high-performing business fits well with our strategy as it will both enhance the First Bus operational footprint in North Yorkshire and expand our adjacent services business, where we are looking to grow our presence.”

Tom James, managing director of York Pullman, will remain with the company in the same capacity and continue to run it on a standalone basis, as well as contributing to the development of the First Bus coach services growth strategy. Following completion of the acquisition, FirstGroup anticipates that its full-year 2024 year-end adjusted net cash position will be £60m to £70m, with some £30m of the ongoing share buyback programme still to be completed.

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