#SC Growth

Suma takes control of GEC after acquiring a 48% stake from Penedés

The private equity management firm rises its stake to 98% in the Catalan consultancy firm following the departure of the investment subsidiary from the savings bank.

It changed the shareholder structure in GEC (Knowledge Management), a Catalan consultant dedicated to online training for companies, and one of the leading companies in Spain. Caixa Penedès, until now one of the reference partners of the firm through its subsidiary Vector Capital, has left the company and sold its shares to the venture capital manager, Suma Capital.

Both Vector and Suma had a 48.5% stake in GEC each, and the rest was in the hands of the management team led by Francesc Fábregas. After the deal, which has not disclosed an amount, Suma will hold about 98% of the capital.

The exit of Caixa Penedès from GEC was a result of the capitalisation needs of BMN, the bank in which the Catalan savings bank is a shareholder in, along with Caja Murcia, Sa Nostra and Caja Granada.

Suma Capital manages two venture capital firms -Wind Privat Equity and Wind Privat Equity I- launched in 2007 by Privat Bank, with shareholders including entrepreneurs and family offices, mostly Catalan. Until last year, the firm was controlled by the Spanish subsidiary of the Belgian Bank Degroof; in July, Suma’s directors bought 40% from Privat-which retains 20% of the capital- and became majority shareholders.

GEC was created within the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) in 1996. In 2009, the university, which had 65% of the firm, and La Caixa, which owned the remaining 35%, sold the company to Suma, Vector and the team of directors.

New Board

Following the departure of Banc Penedès venture capital subsidiary, GEC has remodelled its board of directors, who have left the representatives of the savings bank. The presidency is held by Tombas Henry, head of Suma, and  Paul de Muller is also part of the governing body, another management professional.

The board is completed by GEC’s chief executive, Francesc Fábregas, and José Luis Galí, who just joined as an independent.

Galí, an expert in the field of consulting, headed Cap Gemini in Spain and the Matchmind firm -which he founded- and he is a member of the advisory board of the consulting firm Altair and Miura venture capital management.

According to Suma’s sources, GEC recorded a turnover of around ten million euros last year. The company specialises in solutions for e-learning, virtual communities and management tools for business training.

Based in Barcelona, in December the company opened new offices in Madrid, where it grew strongly in 2011 and has earned customers such as Renfe.

Growth through acquisitions and the leap to Latin America

GEC has set the challenge to establish itself as a leading online training company in Spain. To achieve this, it is looking for opportunities to buy other firms in the sector, according to sources in Suma Capital.

The demand for online education services continues to grow in the Spanish market, but it is still a very fragmented sector in which GEC intends to play an active role in its reorganisation. At the same time, the company, which has a strong presence in Catalonia, seeks to strengthened itself in Madrid and the rest of Spain.

According to the same sources, when the consultant has reached critical mass, through purchases and organic growth, it will be time to consider an offensive in the Latin American market. In this region, the company’s priority countries are Mexico and Brazil. Outside Spain, GEC now has offices in London and Paris. The firm serves groups such as La Caixa, Volkswagen and Agbar, as well as public authorities, including the Government.

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