A corporate merger between two UK construction businesses mainly engaged in the fit-out sector would not normally grab my attention. However, the pre-Christmas announcement that Styles & Wood is to be combined with interiors firm Southerns Group means a change of ownership for Styles & Wood’s information technology subsidiary, Nottingham-based iSite.
Central Square Holdings Ltd (CSHL) is owned by Steve Parkin, chairman and founder of delivery business Clipper Logistics, which counts some of the country’s biggest retailers among its clients. Clipper floated in 2014 and Parkin used some of the proceeds to buy into interiors firm Southerns Group in 2016. The plan is to combine this with Styles & Wood (more background – TCI article).
iSite has been a smaller player in the UK construction collaboration market, supporting many Styles & Wood customers by offering supporting information management services. As a result, its customers have tended to be industry clients with retail and office portfolios to maintain – a service iSite provided via its Portal solution. In 2012, iSite launched a cloud-based facilities management solution branded as “The Hub”, building on relationships with, among others, Nationwide Building Society and retailers Tesco, the Co-op and Morrison’s (until the late 2000s, iSite was known as StoreData, hinting at its retail connections).
The 2012 “Assetology” campaign is now ancient history, and the business – now led by former FM software executive Graham Perry (who joined iSite in 2012) – describes itself as:
“… experts in Big Data analytics. We provide cloud-based portals and mobile applications for data capture, integration and analytics to manage Corporate Real Estate, Facilities Management, Assets, Programmes and Projects. … As part of Styles&Wood Group PLC, we can provide our clients access to a fully integrated range of property support services, enabling them to enhance the performance of their property assets.”
Until a change in its reporting practices, Styles & Wood used to publicly report iSite’s contribution to group turnover and profits; in 2014, for example, it generated revenues of £1.84m (profit: £192k) – then its most successful year, and it looked to be on target to beat that the following year (see September 2015 post).
As well as the Portal and Hub solutions, it also provides a mobile solution branded as iSite Go.
Central Square has indicated that it “has no intention of changing Styles & Wood’s strategic plans, the location of Styles & Wood’s operations or redeploying Styles & Wood’s fixed assets or effecting a material change to the operations of the business or any conditions of employment of Styles & Wood employees”.
This may mean that iSite continues to support its parent company’s business activities, though its ownership by a contracting business may deter some customers in that sector from dealing with iSite. Most of the successful collaboration technology businesses have been independent of such interests (if it was seen as a non-core business, I think a disposal or a management buy-out might make its services more attractive to contracting customers).