Millions available to help firms growBy David Millward
February 15, 2012
Ambitious business owners looking to expand their company are being sought by a new organisation with £2.5 billion at its disposal.
The Business Growth Fund (BGF) was established in April last year with the aim of giving smaller and medium-sized businesses the financial boost required to grow.
Firms which qualify can apply for between £2 million and £10 million but have to be prepared to hand over some control of their business.
Whitchurch-on-Thames man James Austin was appointed investment director at the BGF in December and he is on the lookout for prospective investment opportunities in Reading.
He told Business Post: “The money we have available actually means we have an opportunity to make a difference.”
The BGF is an independent company financed by the largest UK banks which was created as a result of a government green paper about financing a private sector recovery.
The ambition is to give companies with a turnover of between £5 million and £100 million the finance required to grow and, in turn, soak up some of the job losses in the public sector.
Mr Austin said: “We are looking for a high quality manager or management team with a growth opportunity, an established business that can double its profits over a period of time.
“We will endeavour to do more than just put some pounds in so we will have someone from the BGF on the board, people who have done that already.
“We will probably look at helping the owner with a chairman or non-executive director who will typically be independent, wealthy entrepreneurs themselves. Somebody who will be a friend and mentor who has already moved up from £10 million to £50 million business.”
Mr Austin admitted it can be hard for business owners to give up part of their firm.
But he said: “We have met some very impressive people and they say, ‘If you can give me additional help, then why would I refuse?’.”
Mr Austin said the BGF is looking to carry out more than 20 investments this year and he believes Reading is a prime location for possible new business.
He said: “People who have got a good business but can’t grow because they haven’t got access to finance, then we have the finance.”
And Glaswegian Mr Austin has a good idea of Reading’s economy having worked at RBS-structured finance team, in Abbey Gardens, and as an investment director for LDC in Forbury Square.
He said: “I like Reading; it’s a really interesting community and in the last 10 years it appears to have got a bit more of an identity.
“There’s a lot of really good businesses and really good advisers for those businesses.”
He added: “We are talking to quite a few businesses at the moment and we hope to be able to announce a few deals in the coming months.”
Visit www.businessgrowthfund.co.uk for more details.