• August 15, 2014
  • Europe

H.I.G. Europe Backs the Largest Childcare Operator in the Netherlands

LONDON – August 15, 2014 – H.I.G. Europe, the European arm of global private equity investment firm H.I.G. Capital, announced today that it has acquired the majority of the assets of Estro Group, the leading provider of childcare services in the Netherlands. The group has been re-launched under the name Smallsteps B.V. (“Smallsteps”), operating 251 former Estro locations and employing 2,750 former Estro staff.

The deal was completed shortly after Estro was temporarily placed into administration, ensuring an efficient restructuring and minimal disruption to children and parents. All continuing locations are operating under “business as usual” conditions. Smallsteps will continue to work together with parents, local communities and national partners to ensure the seamless continuation of high quality childcare at affordable rates to more than 26,000 children across the Netherlands.

The Smallsteps management team includes former senior members of the Estro management team. John Woodward, founder of Busy Bees, the UK market leader in the provision of childcare, was appointed Chairman of the Smallsteps supervisory board. Woodward has over 30 years of experience in the childcare sector.

Paul Canning, Managing Director of H.I.G. Europe, who has a background in the sector having previously supported the early growth of Busy Bees, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to secure a future for this business and provide continuity for the majority of parents, children and employees. The wider economic environment in the Netherlands has had an inevitable impact on all businesses in this sector. However, with the financial support and new investment from H.I.G., and a high quality and committed management team, we are confident for the future of Smallsteps.”

ING Bank and ABN AMRO Bank are supporting the transaction and are continuing to provide the company with banking services.

H.I.G. has recently made a number of investments in the education sector, including Academos Group, a platform for premium international schools around the world. Academos Group’s flagship school, St. Gilgen, is a leading, premium IB boarding school based in Austria.

About Smallsteps
Smallsteps is the market leading provider of childcare services in the Netherlands. The group, headquartered in Amersfoort, offers day care for 0-4 year olds and pre/after school care for 4-12 year olds. The group provides services to 26,000 children through its 251 locations and 2,750 employees. Smallsteps works together with parents, local communities and national partners to ensure excellent childcare services are provided for its customers. For more information, please refer to the Smallsteps website at www.smallsteps.info.

About H.I.G. Capital
H.I.G. is a leading global private equity investment firm with more than €11 billion of equity capital under management. Based in Miami, and with offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York and San Francisco in the U.S., as well as international affiliate offices in London, Hamburg, Madrid, Milan, Paris and Rio de Janeiro, H.I.G. specializes in providing capital to small and medium-sized companies with attractive growth potential. H.I.G. invests in management-led buyouts and recapitalizations of profitable and well managed manufacturing or service businesses. Since its founding in 1993, H.I.G. has invested in and managed more than 200 companies worldwide. The firm’s current portfolio includes more than 80 companies with combined sales in excess of €22 billion. For more information, please refer to the H.I.G. website at www.hig.com.

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Paul Canning
Managing Director

Alastair Mills

H.I.G. European Capital Partners LLP
25 St. George Street
London W1S 1FS
United Kingdom
P. +44 (0) 20 7318 5700
F. +44 (0) 20 7318 5749