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April 5, 2008

CONTRACTING: Opex marries Stanco

The speculation is over. At 11am today, Guy Morgan and Neil Jackson, chairmen of Opex and Stanco Exhibition Services respectively, announced the formal acquisition of Stanco by the Opex Group for an undisclosed sum.

“We have merged the second and third largest UK exhibition contractors to form a company best equipped to deliver services on behalf of our customers. By merging our interests, synergies, costs and operations, we have created a platform that will enable us to continue to invest in, and deliver, enhanced customer services. Bringing Stanco into the group will improve our competitive position, and help us to realise our domestic and international potential”, commented Morgan.


Fortune favours the brave: (L-R) Guy Morgan, Paul Slaney,
Andy Gibb, Justin Phillips and Neil Jackson

This is good news for UK exhibition organisers and their customers. Not only does it end any immediate concerns about the stability of UK exhibition contracting, but it also maintains the competitive status quo, leaving only Early Action Group and the GL/NEC partnership as serious bridesmaids in what is essentially a two-pony show starring GES’s Melville Exhibition Services and an independently owned Opex Group.

The next financial year will see the new company turnover in the region of £40million, the bulk of which will continue to be derived from core contracting services – electrical, standfitting, furniture and floorcoverings with value added data, custom-build and media services further contributing to the bottom line.

New roles
Both entities will continue to trade under their existing brand names, but the newly formed holding company will see Morgan, who will have fronted the risk required to finance the deal, as chairman. Jackson will be deputy chairman, Justin Phillips (who masterminded a slick acquisition campaign) will be group commercial and financial director, with Andy Gibb and Paul Slaney fulfilling the group managing and group operations director roles respectively. David Cunningham completes the Board line-up responsible for data and interactive services.

“The combined strengths and resources of the new group will ensure that our customers continue to receive the very best. The calendar of events serviced by Opex and Stanco are almost completely complimentary with minimal overlap instantly making the new group more efficient with far less peaks and troughs throughout the year,” added Jackson.

Recent event management and contracting service wins by Ian Denny in the corridors of ITU Telecom, the UN body responsible for global telecommunications events, has opened up potential routes into EMEA and Asia for Opex. These are traditionally safe seats for the likes of French-owned GL (General Location, who just teamed up with the NEC in the UK) and of Pico, who will inevitably view the new Opex Group as a potential acquisition target if it delivers a sensible return over the next year in its domestic markets while making in-roads into international territories. A fast-track to non-UK events could be on the back of domestic clients, such as DMG World Media, who themselves are realising the undeveloped potential for their brands overseas, as well as association and governmental events.

Hand in glove
Certainly Opex has every chance. The client and calendar alignment in the UK looks like the corporate hand just met the corporate glove and with a rationalised cost base, the portents are at last healthy for Opex, even in a mature local market. The management team has a well balanced look to it with a huge relationship base, experience, and the hunger and energy in Gibb and Slaney, in particular, to see the potential of the merger realised.

For now, however, Morgan’s faith, courage and money has brought Opex to the brink of international status and if ever someone deserved the strapline: ‘fortune favours the brave’, then it is him.

They’ll be singing in the valleys tonight.

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