UK Investment Firm Pumps $12.5M into Frontrow

Graeme Coutts (left) and Mike Sibson; Photo: BGF

UK-based investment firm Business Growth Fund (BGF) has invested £10 million ($12.5M) in Frontrow Energy Technology Group to support the company’s growth plans, alongside a £3m investment from the group’s founders.

Formed in 2013, the Frontrow team has acquired, established and grown a group of energy service companies, creating a hub for the development of new technologies and providing entrepreneurial teams with operational guidance and expertise.

According to BGF’s statement on Monday, companies already in the group include Well-Sense, a downhole technology business with an innovative and low cost way of collecting data from oil wells; Well-Centric, a provider of wellhead servicing operations offshore; and Interventek, a subsea technology business with a ‘shear and seal’ valve designed to reduce the cost of subsea well interventions while improving safety and reliability. The companies are based in the same incubator facility in Dyce, Aberdeenshire and have access to shared resources.

Frontrow will use BGF’s funding to expand its resources and infrastructure, allowing it to develop technology companies in the region’s energy industry. BGF said the investment enables it to unlock much-needed investment into a higher number of businesses across Scotland, and in the North East of Scotland in particular.

Frontrow was set up by chairman Graeme Coutts, the former chief executive at Expro Group and current chairman of BGF portfolio companies Spex Group and STATS Group. The group is led by chief executive Stuart Ferguson, former Chief Technology Officer at Weatherford, with an established track record in building oilfield technology businesses. The senior team also includes non-executive director Colin Smith, who sold his Petrowell business to Weatherford in 2012, and executive director Frank Summers, who ran the Simmons Fund 1 leading investments in Red Spider Technology, Xodus and EFC.

Mike Sibson, an investor in BGF’s Aberdeen office who will join the board of Frontrow, said: “The past two years have been incredibly challenging for companies operating in the North East of Scotland’s oil and gas industry, and many entrepreneurs have understandably been shaken by the downturn.

“Despite these strong headwinds in the energy industry, and across the whole of UK, 2016 was a record year for BGF, and we will continue partnering, supporting and investing as part of our strategy to provide truly long-term capital to companies scaling up.

“This deal allows us not only to invest in the growth and development of Frontrow, but it also extends our reach into younger, earlier stage companies in oil and gas, and the broader energy industry. We are backing a team with a deep understanding of energy technology, a strong industry network and the operational experience to bring new products to market.”

Coutts, chairman at Frontrow Energy Technology Group, said: “This funding will allow us to acquire and to grow more high-potential companies in the energy sector. Our vision is to build a group of world-leading technology businesses based here in the North East of Scotland, which has long been a center for the development of downhole and subsea technologies.

“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Mike Sibson and his colleagues, so BGF was top of our list when we wanted to expand Frontrow’s capability. We’re not just tapping into the capital that BGF can supply but also into its expertise and network too.”

BGF’s other portfolio companies in the oil and gas industry include STATS, Petrotechnics and Rovop. As part of the investment, BGF is taking a minority stake in Frontrow.

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