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Swansea acquisition for Huws Gray

2 Nov 21 The private equity consolidation of UK builders’ merchants continues with yet another acquisition this week.

Doorstep delivery from Exall & Jones
Doorstep delivery from Exall & Jones

Huws Gray Group, backed by US private equity player Blackstone, has bought Exall & Jones Ltd, a builders and timber merchants based in Swansea city centre.

Exall & Jones is Huws Gray’s sixth acquisition of 2021, not including a £520m deal in the works to take over Grafton’s traditional merchanting businesses in Great Britain, which includes 149 Buildbase stores.

Exall & Jones was founded in 1984 by David Jones and the late John Exall. It now becomes Huws Gray Swansea.

 Matthew Owen, head of acquisitions for the Huws Gray Group, commented: “2021 has been a particularly busy year for Huws Gray and it’s fantastic to be welcoming a merchant based in the heart of one of Wales’ most vibrant cities to the group.”

He added: “Exall & Jones is a third-generation family business with a great reputation, and we want to continue to build on the fantastic work they have done here.  We’re looking forward to working with the existing team to develop the site and continue to serve the area with first-class service as Huws Gray Swansea.”

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Huws Gray chief executive Ian Northern said: "As a company we are always looking for opportunities to extend our branch network and are excited by the opportunity to establish our first site in South Wales.  We firmly believe that Exall & Jones is a perfect fit for us in terms of location and business potential.  It joins our well-established network of branches in North Wales and will significantly enhance and strengthen our presence.”

Huws Gray has had private-equity backing since Inflexion bought into the business in 2018. Blackstone took over from Inflexion earlier this year. It remains under the day-to-day management of the original founders who set up a single store in Anglesey in 1990. Since the private equity injection three years ago, it has been on an acquisition spree, taking over Shropshire Building Supplies, James Wilby Builders Merchants, Ridgeons Building & Timber Merchants, Milford Building Supplies (Leeds), Higgins Building Supplies (Wellingborough), Uriah Woodhead & Son (Bradford), AC Roof Trusses (Welshpool) and Sandysike Builders Merchants (Carlisle).

 In July it agreed a £520m deal to take over Grafton’s traditional merchanting businesses in Great Britain, which includes 149 Buildbase stores. This deal is not expected to complete until March 2022.

Blackstone is not the only private equity firm trying to buy up builders’ merchants (and their real estate). Cairngorm Capital Partners started out buying Parker Building Supplies in 2018 and has since taken over Stamco, Fairalls, Grant & Stone, 3Counties, CRS Building Supplies, Perrys, Rawle Gammon & Baker (RGB), Buildit, Total Plumbing Supplies and Sussex Plumbing Supplies, with aggregate annual revenues of more than £500m.

Cairngorm Capital also owns Scottish timber merchant Thornbridge, North Yorkshire Timber, Rembrand Timber, Arnold Laver and door maker Cotswold Manufacturing. These form the National Timber Group.

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