Posted by Will Lewis

Posted 24 February, 2015 OBI BLOG

11There’s been much talk recently of London-based corporate advisors looking for Manchester addresses: much of this is based on the success experienced by Manchester’s Zeus Capital since opening in London, where the company has been able to create some serious heat around previously unsung North West success stories.  Could this success have alerted some in the capital to the worth of establishing a northern outpost?

OBI have been fortunate to assist Numis Securities in their quest for new office space and this has added to the long list of corporate finance firms and private equity houses we now represent throughout the UK.

Brokers, along with the private equity and venture capital operators that often take companies from an “owner-managed bright idea” through a growth path towards floatation, are fairly well represented in Manchester and have been for some years. There are some great operators and over the last few years and OBI have got to know this sector well, acting for ECI Partners, Palatine, North Edge Capital, Enterprise Ventures, Montagu, Maven and Rickitt Mitchell, finding the property they need and advising on their investment companies.

The suggestion now is with business activity on the whole improving, do those corporate finance and private equity operators not in the north need to be here, and if so, is it Manchester where they need to be? The historic “Devo Manc” agreement looks to be a landmark, a recognition that this part of the 1country, more easily defined than the Leeds city region and having more distance from the capital than Birmingham, is the smart bet for a counterweight to the dominance of London and the South East.

It’s important to remember we’re not drawing boundaries around the city region, the North West as a whole can benefit. We see an enterprise culture throughout the North West – none of the firms we work with restrict themselves to Manchester and nor should they. But there’s got to be a hub.

The BVCA (the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association) clearly agrees.  Following his appointment to Director, BCVA Manchester Richard Young (formerly of Enterprise Ventures and the founder of the Manchester Technology Fund) talked about how richly endowed the north is in private equity activity, but said that much goes unreported on a national scale and he intends to help change that.

There’s certainly activity – the Centre for Management Buyout Research reported a resilient first half of 2014 for North West deals, a resilience that the business press suggests has developed into a healthy flow of activity in the months since.  During last year some of the UK’s largest IPO’s were recorded by North West based businesses such as AO World, Boohoo.com, Pets at Home and 4dPharma raising over a billion pounds.

Companies feel more confident in pressing the button on the big decisions now – we are also seeing this trend in the property market, where Manchester has just recorded a record year for office take-up.  Furthermore, the mergers and acquisitions market is expected to remain healthy in the early part of 2015 as some businesses seek to transact prior to May’s General Election.

So is Manchester the north’s undisputed financial services powerhouse? Some in Leeds might argue, but the case looks increasingly clear. No other regional city has pulled off a development of the magnitude of Spinningfields, and managed to maintain such momentum. We look forward to working with more finance professionals getting serious about Manchester and the North West.