Lloyds Bank funding supports Statesman Travel Group’S growth plans


London-based travel management specialist Statesman Travel Group is a top ten player in its industry and provides business travel services to a range of clients in finance, media, professional services, oil and gas and other sectors.

Global coverage

“They can go anywhere in the world, including all the major cities and major financial centres,” explains Joint Managing Director Mervyn Williamson, who bought Statesman in 2007 with business partner Jon Langley. “New York is a very popular destination, as are Hong Kong and Singapore. You also need to take into account the emerging economies, so India, China, Brazil and Turkey are also flourishing – so it’s really a global business.”

In 2011 the board identified acquisition as the way forward and started looking at external finance. Their Lloyds Bank relationship manager at the time introduced them to the Business Growth Fund, a £2.5bn initiative to provide long-term capital backed by five UK banks, including Lloyds Bank.

The long view

“One of the main positives about going with BGF as opposed to a private equity company was their long-term vision,” Williamson says. “They’d just been set up and their minimum investment timeline was six to seven years. Lloyds Bank were also very supportive and I think that was down to the openness of our relationship with them. Even before we borrowed money from them, we’d send them monthly financials and held quarterly reviews, so they understood our business and knew what we were trying to achieve.”

Statesman became one of BGF’s first investments, receiving a £4.25m injection in return for a minority shareholding and seat on the board. Alongside external debt from Lloyds Bank, this allowed the company to buy a rival operator, Commodore International Travel.

Transformational growth

“We went from having £55m turnover and 80 employees to having £100m turnover and 150 people,” Williamson explains. “Over the last two to three years we’ve also established a specialist fares division and an in-house hotel booking agency. We also have a large event management team and a school sports and cultural tours division, so it’s given us much more diversity within the group.”

Naomi Herlitz, Relationship Manager at Lloyds Bank, says: “Statesman has banked with Lloyds Bank for over 20 years and have a good working relationship with the team here – which enabled them to come and speak to us when the acquisition opportunity arose. The Commodore acquisition doubled the size of the business and opened an important new market, as Commodore was the UK’s largest supplier of travel into the Muslim community. In turn the deal improved Statesman’s share of the corporate market and gave them the size required to compete with the leading operators in their industry. Opportunities of this type are limited in the current UK travel sector and this provided a good opportunity to grow.”

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