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Brit web host biz UKFast gears up to IPO on London Stock Exchange

Server and cloud outfit aims to float by October if tech market evades Brexit jitters

UKFast, a British web hosting provider and bringer of clouds, is planning to float on the London Stock Exchange with the aim of raising a £350m war chest, The Register can exclusively reveal.

The Manchester-based business, which employs 350 staff and operates five data centres – with two dedicated to the British public sector – has hired investment bank GCA Altium to help it target future acquisitions and purchases after the IPO.

Lawrence Jones, CEO at UKFast, told us the national tech market was expanding, and “a float gives us the funds necessary to capitalise on the opportunity”.

“There are some fantastic businesses in the UK right now that we are interested in talking to,” he added.

UKFast intends to announce on Monday that it plans to list its shares “before the year is out," likely in or around October, Jones said.

“There are of course slight concerns around Brexit and what that may do for the market,” he said. “I am being advised that it shouldn’t affect us as we are presently very UK focused, however if there was a significant downturn it would be sensible to wait until the market bounces back/"

Even the mages at Gartner can't stroke their crystal balls to tell UKFast, or indeed the good people of Blighty, how the extrication from the European Union will impact British businesses.

We SIA what you've done there

Last year, UKFast snaffled Secure Information Assurance (SIA), a security minnow that provided cloud hosting and infosec services to the British Government, including the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office.

According to Companies House, SIA, which was incorporated in 2013, and filed abbreviated accounts for the year ended 30 June, meaning it had revenues lower than £6.5m or fewer than 50 employees.

UKFast came close to buying infrastructure services outfit Outsourcery, run by one-time Dragons' Den investor Piers Linney, however, the deal fell through, and Outsourcery – which went into administration after burning through £20m – was eventually sold to GCI Networks.

Around 5,000 clients are serviced by UKFast including office rental biz Regis UK, Chester Zoo, NHS Health Education Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West Ambulance Service, and hotel booking service

Cloudy days

In addition to hosting, UKFast sells public, private, and hybrid cloud services to customers. And a few weeks ago, it launched ClearCloud to support clients’ workloads running on AWS and Microsoft Azure. The unit is run by Matt Bibby, ex-AWS global solutions architect for financial services.

UKFast, which was founded in 1999 by Jones and his wife Gail, also owns cyber security business Secarma, and back in 2016 it slurped application security specialist Pentest Limited reportedly for £10m.

According to its most recent results for the year ended 31 December, 2016, UKFast turned £39.6m, up 15 per cent year-on-year and reported a profit after tax of £9.47m.

Jones claimed the business had upped organic revenue by 18 per cent in fiscal ’17 – not yet filed at Companies House – and pushed up profit margins to almost fifty per cent. ®

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