Simon Howie sells Mermaid Panels and Shore Laminates to Wilsonart for £30 million

Perthshire-based entrepreneur Simon Howie has sold Mermaid Panels and Shore Laminates, manufacturers of shower walls and wall panel systems, to Wilsonart Engineered Surfaces, a global manufacturer and distributor of engineered surfaces headquartered in Austin, Texas in an all-cash deal of £30m.

simon howie sale

Wilsonart has bought the business as a bolt-on to its other UK operations, Bushboard and Wilsonart UK, which make laminate-faced products such as kitchen worktops and wall panelling.

The deal is considered by both parties to be a win-win situation: Wilsonart benefits from new products and routes to market, while Shore and Mermaid benefit from the investment and growth that being part of a global organisation can bring.

There are 74 people working at Shore and Mermaid, who will be added to Wilsonart Europe’s 1450 employees, themselves part of Wilsonart’s 4500-strong global workforce. There are no planned changes to operations at Shore and Mermaid, which will continue to operate as they do today, as will Wilsonart UK and Bushboard operations.

Best known as a Scottish family butcher and producer of the world’s best-selling haggis brand, Simon Howie founded Shore Laminates when he encountered difficulty sourcing laminate products for his butcher shops.

Shore was started by Howie and a business partner in 1991, with an initial investment of £30k and some support from RBS, manufacturing bespoke panels and washroom cubicles. Howie bought out the business partner later that year and the company leased its small premises in the Perth Harbour area, hence Shore Laminates.

In 1994 the company bought a nine acres site below Friarton Bridge, which now houses its 100,000 ft2 factory. Shore took off after receiving the award to supply Glasgow Airport international terminal with wall panels before proceeding to supply products for Edinburgh Airport, Bristol Airport, Stansted Airport, The Scottish Office at Leith, Standard Life’s buildings in Edinburgh and many of the new buildings at the Gyle, Edinburgh.

A turning point for Shore came when Howie realised that his food business was thriving due to its relationship with multiple retailers and that products with brand equity were the future, so, in 1998, the launch of Wetwall as an alternative to tiles became a player in the market. This product now accounts for 75% of Shore’s turnover.

Wetwall is sold throughout the UK, into Europe and is set to launch in the USA. By the mid 2000’s the company had two main activities: developing and selling Wetwall and supplying washroom cubicles to the construction sector.

This brought about a thought that Shore should buy its two main competitors. Mermaid Panels, based in Lincolnshire, was bought in May 2007 and Thrislington Cubicles, based in Sandycroft, North Wales, was bought later that year. The three companies traded together but worked separately.

Mermaid and Wetwall now dominate the European shower panel market with companies such as B&Q, Wickes, Travis Perkins and Homebase stocking the products. Thrislington Cubicles remains outwith the sale.

Commenting on the disposal, Simon Howie said: “Whilst I’m delighted to see the deal completed, there is no flag-waving as there has been a massive effort put into the development of the companies over the years and the relationships which have been formed with the key people in the companies make this a difficult day.

“We were intent on finding a buyer that loved the laminates and surfaces business, rather than the highest bidder who may have taken the business and moved it around like a chess game.

“There were many instances in the early days when I thought we would struggle to see the month out, but we had a few lucky breaks and I managed to find the best people in the industry to help me drive the business forward. They have a huge sense of achievement in Shore and Mermaid’s success, and I know they will shine in the new Wilsonart team.

“My mother died at a young age, 50 years old, coincidentally the same age I am now, leaving my brothers and me £23k each. This is what I used to start Shore Laminates. I thought the company was lost at one point, but the idea of wiping out her life’s work was never an option for me. I hope she would be pleased with her investment.

“I will continue to support the business in the coming months and years in a non-executive capacity. I want to ensure that Wilsonart looks back on this acquisition as the best one they have made and that the future jobs of our staff are secure and safe for the long term.”

Wilsonart has made 10 acquisitions in recent years and has a track record of developing and growing its new group companies.

Tim Pearson, President of Wilsonart Western Europe, said: “Shore and Mermaid bring exciting design and innovative products to the market. The addition of these two companies to the Wilsonart portfolio reinforces our commitment to providing surfacing solutions for a wide range of interior demands.”

According to Pearson, Shore and Mermaid provide additional depth and new technologies to broaden Wilsonart’s engineered surfaces offering. As part of the Wilsonart portfolio, both brands have significant opportunity to expand into new geographies across Europe.

Shore and Mermaid are seen by Wilsonart as complementary to its other European businesses, including brand leaders Polyrey and Resopal. There will be no changes to the way that current customers access Shore and Mermaid products.

EY managed the deal for the sellers, Shepherd and Wedderburn dealt with the legals and Thorntons Solicitors handled the leases of the property. EY’s Corporate Finance team in Scotland originated the sale, helped by its existing relationships with both Simon Howie and the Wilsonart executive team.

Ally Scott, EY’s Head of Transaction Advisory Services in Scotland, said: “Simon is a renowned entrepreneur and one of the 2013 UK winners of EY Entrepreneur of The Year. This transaction is an excellent strategic fit for both buyer and seller and builds on my relationship with Simon of more than 15 years when we worked together on the successful Shore Recycling investment. We are delighted to have been lead advisor and it has been a great pleasure to help deliver this outcome.”

Simon Howie added: “We were very impressed by EY’s deal-making skills and attention to detail throughout the sales process – a big thanks to Ally Scott, Richard Rainey an Andy Kerr at EY.”

Chairman of the self-named Simon Howie Group, Simon Howie is best known as the entrepreneur behind leading Scottish family butcher Simon Howie Foods, which supplies all the major supermarkets with a range of butchery products and operates award-winning butcher shops in Perth and Auchterarder.

Less well known is the fact that the Simon Howie Group has an annual turnover in excess of £60 million and employs almost 400 staff across a diverse range of industrial sectors encompassing property, waste energy, bulk goods handling and distribution and farming.

ENDS

For further information please contact Simon Howie on 07971 277272 / 01764 686000

Issued by Liquorice Media tel 0187 738 2961 www.liquorice-media.com

Date: 1 December 2017

Notes to Editors

• Simon Howie Butcher (supplies all UK supermarkets, Brakes, major hotels such as Di Maggios, Gleneagles, Old Course, etc. and has a turnover of £16m.

• Rossco Properties operates more than 2m sq ft of commercial/industrial space in Scotland and the North of England.

• Calport, Perth harbour is run by Ross Howie (26), Simon’s son.

• Strata Group (Shore, Mermaid, Thrislington) will post a turnover of £31m this year.

• Simon Howie operates a JV with Kevin Tailor in Dupplin Investments and is owner of Pacitti Jones, Glasgow and Cerberus Tech.

• His two farms, Findony and Millhouse, are based at Dunning, Perthshire.

• Simon is married to Karen and they have two children, Ross and Lynne. Ross works in the group with Simon and Lynne is in the management team at Alexander Dennis (Falkirk). Karen has a shop Forget me Not Fashions in Auchterarder, which opened in 1989.