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MHA Corporate Finance advises on sale of Knowles to Sentry creating the UK market-leader in fire safety doors

August 9th 2022
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MHA Corporate Finance (“MHA”) is pleased to announce its role as lead adviser to the shareholders of E. & S.W. Knowles & Company Ltd (“Knowles”) on its sale to Sentry Doors Ltd (“Sentry”) in a transaction supported by Cairngorm Capital Partners LLP (“Cairngorm”), catapulting the combined group into prime position as the UK’s market-leading fire safety door specialist.

Established in Birmingham in 1923, Knowles manufactures specialist timber internal door sets with fire rated, acoustic, and PAS 24 security certification. Knowles trades nationally offering bespoke, sector-specific solutions which meet the exacting requirements of its commercial, healthcare, education, and leisure customers.

Led by M&A corporate finance partner James Lawson, the MHA team advised Knowles extensively on its preparation for sale, and managed the negotiation and delivery of the transaction. The MHA team introduced Cairngorm and Sentry as a strategic acquirer having identified Sentry’s specialist fire door set offering catering to different, yet highly complementary sectors including social housing; the public sector; and commercial and residential markets.

Sentry’s acquisition of Knowles will accelerate innovation and growth in the combined group, deliver an enhanced offering, and augment sector coverage and expertise. It has been evident from the outset of discussions that both businesses share many aspects of their cultural outlook and values; key amongst which is a focus on customer service and quality.  Customers of the combined group are expected to benefit significantly from an enhanced product range and service capability; and improvements in equipment and technology, supply chain, and logistics.

Knowles’ Managing Director Steve Horner will join Sentry’s senior management team, and will go on managing Knowles to deliver continuity for staff and customers, and to support Sentry’s CEO, Ty Aziz to ensure Knowles plays its part in realising opportunities arising from the new partnership. With both companies already boasting independent third-party accreditations from BM Trada as well as holding Certifire and IFC accreditations individually, the enlarged group has immediately become the UK’s largest specialist fire safety door manufacturer, and it is well positioned for significant growth.

Martin Wright, Knowles’ majority shareholder and Chairman commented:

“Next year Knowles celebrates its centenary. Whilst I am extremely proud of all that Knowles has achieved in the last 99 years of my family’s ownership, I know that Knowles has the capability to achieve much more. I believe this is a natural point for the family to pass the company to new, trusted custodians who are as passionate as us about their customers and can deliver Knowles’ future potential. Knowles has found a perfect partner in Sentry, and I firmly believe the companies will achieve great things together.

We owe a significant debt of gratitude to the team at MHA – they helped the shareholders to understand the underlying value of Knowles in advising on the preparation of the business for sale, and were steadfast and exacting in identifying a partner in Cairngorm and Sentry and negotiating the terms on our behalf. At every stage of the process the MHA team’s advice has been invaluable – they took the time to understand our objectives and have provided dedicated, hands-on support and advice which has been fundamental to the transaction’s a successful conclusion.”

Stuart Whiteford (director of Sentry and Cairngorm investment team) observed:

“Knowles is an excellent company that is highly regarded by its customers. The combination of Knowles and Sentry is strategically compelling and delivers additional capabilities and services across the business, to the benefit of all customers. Significant investments are taking place for both businesses and we look forward to supporting Ty Aziz and Steve Horner to deliver their growth plan.”

Ty Aziz, Sentry’s Chief Executive added:

“I am delighted to welcome Knowles to Sentry – they have a fantastic manufacturing heritage, an exceptional team, and a superb product range so we can learn a lot from one another. This partnership will help us to respond to the surge in demand for our products, as well as providing our customers with a comprehensive range of fire safety and security solutions, and a greater choice of features and finishes. It marks a key milestone in the growth strategy for our businesses and advances our collective ambition to be UK leaders in this sector.”

James Lawson, MHA Corporate Finance partner remarked:

“The MHA team and I are exceptionally proud to have advised Kowles’ shareholders on its sale to Sentry. My team is dedicated to providing high-quality, hands-on M&A advice to shareholders and management teams in the mid and lower-mid market, but it’s especially gratifying to act as a trusted adviser to a business with a 100-year family legacy, and to deliver an outcome which meets the interests of all stakeholders against the demanding brief Martin and the Knowles team set us. Both Sentry and Knowles are high performers in the sector, and we are confident Ty, Steve, and the Cairngorm team will continue to grow the combined group and guide it on an exciting future to reach its full potential.”

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