A Midland business which supplies sound systems to the largest international live music events has become the UK's biggest audio production company after acquiring a Manchester rival.
Redditch-based SSE Audio Group, which provides sound at festivals including V and Download, now employs 140 staff after a £5.7 million expansion drive including the acquisition of Wigwam Acoustics. The firm forecasts revenues of £20 million.
Wigwam works mainly in the touring market and provides audio for bands including Coldplay and One Direction.
Formed in 1976 in Nottingham’s Trent Polytechnic by students John and Heather Penn, SSE began life as a college disco but quickly morphed into PA rental as bands moved away from owning their own equipment.
The firm achieved early success working with talents such as the Darts, The Undertones, Buzzcocks and Coventry’s The Selecter.
It moved to Birmingham in 1984, starting in Gooch Street, before moving in with Light and Sound Design on Coventry Road.
Over the years SSE has formed a long term relationship with UB40, installed the audio system at the ICC, managed live sound at all the city’s major venues, and worked with other Midland musicians including Steve Gibbons, Roy Wood and the Electric Light Orchestra, before moving to Redditch in 2003.
Group managing director Mr Penn said: “We’ve grown the business bit by bit, building client relationships.
“The addition of Wigwam is another significant milestone in the company’s policy of growth through acquisition, which commenced in 2001 when we merged with Melpomen SAS in France.
“Since then we have made a number of acquisitions, but Wigwam is the largest and most significant.
“We’re reinvesting, always with a long term view in mind rather than trousering the cash and that’s how we’ve been able to steal a march on companies that were equally as good.
“We expect there to be further consolidation within the industry and envisage that the SSE Group will continue to grow both organically and through further targeted acquisitions.”
In addition to rentals, both companies have strong sales divisions supplying pro-audio equipment to schools, colleges, theatres and entertainment venues.
SSE Installations puts in and maintains audio visual systems in nightclubs, bars and restaurants, alongside stadiums and arenas while Wigwam is active in complementary markets such as places of worship and conference centres.
SSE Audio Group received £5.7 million from RBS Corporate Transactions through the Government’s Funding for Lending Scheme to finance the expansion.
Mr Penn reported that the company had looked at various funding opportunities over the last 12 months, including equity options but decided on the debt against equity route. He said: “RBS came in with their attractive FFL backed offer, which was flexible and priced competitively.
“The underlying principle is that both businesses are profitable and the combined entity will have the ability to generate increased revenues through improved utilisation and pooling of resources.”
Wigwam director Mick Spratt said, “Chris Hill (fellow director) and I were looking for a route to secure a long term future for Wigwam and our staff which would be least disruptive to what is a very successful company.
“We’ve known and respected John and Heather and the people at SSE for over 30 years and believe that both companies have similar cultures and vision.”