Encore Capital Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: ECPG) announced late Tuesday acquisitions of two international ARM firms in separate transactions, one in the UK and one in Latin America. The announcements were made in conjunction with the company’s fourth quarter and full year 2013 earnings report.
The acquisitions also come in the middle of massive international expansion at the top of the U.S. debt buying industry, with Encore alone announcing major deals in the past few months Cabot in May 2013 and Marlin in February 2014, among others).
The company said that it has taken a controlling stake in Refinancia, a leading debt purchaser in Colombia and Peru. Encore purchased 51 percent of the company in December 2013.
Encore’s acquisition of Refinancia establishes Encore’s presence in the high-growth Colombian and Peruvian markets, which together have nearly 80 million residents. Refinancia services distressed consumer debt, which it either purchases or services on behalf of others. It also offers merchant guarantee services, factoring arrangements, and a small credit card business in Colombia.
According to Ken Vecchione, Chief Executive Officer of Encore, the acquisition continues Encore’s purposeful expansion designed to capitalize on growth and consolidation opportunities both domestically and internationally. “This transaction opens up two new markets in which Encore can deploy capital at higher returns than are available in the U.S.,” he said. “In addition, Encore now has a beachhead in Latin America from which to expand, both geographically and into new specialty financial products designed for underserved consumers.”
Encore will bring to Refinancia its analytic strength, operational sophistication and deep knowledge of distressed consumers, creating opportunities for Refinancia to increase operating efficiencies and strengthen performance. Refinancia also shares Encore’s commitment to fair and ethical treatment of consumers.
Kenneth Mendiwelson, Chief Executive Officer of Refinancia, said, “We are excited to join Encore and gain the financial and operational support of a world leader. In turn, Refinancia provides Encore with immediate access to emerging markets in Peru and Colombia, and positions Encore for growth throughout the Latin American region. We look forward to working together to reach new levels of success.”
According to Vecchione, Encore has been deploying capital through Refinancia since late 2012 and plans to continue this activity. “We are taking the same approach with Refinancia that we took with Cabot, in which we acquire a controlling interest in the company with the expectation of increasing our ownership interest over time. In the meantime, the majority of the capital we invest is staying within the business to fund future growth.
In the second deal, Encore announced that it has entered into an agreement to take a controlling stake in Grove Capital Management (Grove), an investment group that purchases credit portfolios and has a focus on UK insolvencies and Spanish assets. The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of 2014.
The Grove transaction will broaden Encore’s presence in the UK and enable it to bring a full range of offerings to issuers in the UK market. Grove’s largest business is the purchase and management of insolvencies, consisting primarily of individual voluntary arrangements (IVA), and bankruptcy receivables. An IVA is a formal, voluntary repayment plan negotiated with creditors and entered into by individuals or businesses that wish to avoid a bankruptcy.
“The proposed transaction with Grove is yet another example of Encore’s purposeful expansion into new geographies and asset classes,” said Ken Vecchione, Chief Executive Officer of Encore. “Through this transaction, Encore will broaden the suite of services it offers in the UK, while also gaining access to another channel through which to deploy capital.”
Grove differentiates itself and drives strong collections performance through its sophisticated analytics, deep knowledge of the consumer, and strong relationship with TDX Group, the largest servicing platform for IVAs in the UK. As a result, Grove has quickly grown to be among the leading investors in UK insolvency assets.
Kevin Fuller, Chief Executive Officer of Grove, said, “The agreement with Encore shows the value of Grove’s market position and represents the start of an exciting new stage in our growth. With access to Encore’s strong capital position, we can be a stronger partner for our UK clients and accelerate our growth in Spain and other European markets, while maintaining the agility and responsiveness that have been key to our success.”
Vecchione said, “We believe this transaction, along with our other recent acquisitions, provides us with increased optionality by enabling us to allocate capital in multiple asset classes in multiple geographies, to bring our shareholders the best returns.”
Encore Capital Group is an international specialty finance company providing debt recovery solutions for consumers and property owners across a broad range of assets. Through its subsidiaries, the Company purchases portfolios of consumer receivables from major banks, credit unions, and utility providers, and partners with individuals as they repay their obligations and work toward financial recovery. Through its Propel Financial Services subsidiary, the Company assists property owners who are delinquent on their property taxes by structuring affordable monthly payment plans and purchases delinquent tax liens directly from select taxing authorities. Through its Cabot Credit Management subsidiary in the United Kingdom, the Company is a market-leading acquirer and manager of consumer debt in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Encore’s success and future growth are driven by its sophisticated and widespread use of analytics, its broad investments in data and behavioral science, the significant cost advantages provided by its highly efficient operating model and proven investment strategy, and the Company’s demonstrated commitment to conducting business ethically and in ways that support its consumers’ financial recovery. Headquartered in San Diego, Encore is a publicly traded NASDAQ Global Select company (ticker symbol: ECPG) and a component stock of the Russell 2000, the S&P SmallCap 600, and the Wilshire 4500. More information about the Company can be found at www.encorecapital.com.