ISG strengthens modular capability with MMC-specialist buy

Contractor and fit-out specialist ISG has bought a majority stake in ESS Group, in a move aimed at growing its business.

ESS Group, which has headquarters in Manchester and Dublin, is a specialist in modern methods of construction (MMC). It employs 280 staff across four offices and three manufacturing facilities in the UK and Ireland.

ISG said the deal has given its wider business an additional MMC capability. The firm added that ESS Group will be independent in operation, but with financial backing from ISG. The group’s MMC business will continue to have a “core focus” on public sector projects.

Alongside ESS Modular, the group also includes Spatial Initiative, which it acquired in June 2020. The UK-based school-building company has won places on several Department of Education frameworks.

ISG chief executive Matt Blowers said the investment in MMC was important for reaching its net-zero goals. MMC mostly involves offsite construction and less labour, and cuts down on embodied carbon in the construction process.

“The ESS Group brings a wealth of expertise, talent and innovation into ISG, and enables us to collectively fast-track our journey developing and implementing leading-edge built solutions that are rooted in operational performance and the highest sustainable and ethical outcomes,” he said.

ESS chief executive Paul Tierney (pictured) described the ISG investment as “a pivotal moment” for the group. He added that it gave the specialist a “solid financial platform” to carry out its plans for growth across the UK and Ireland.

In 2016, ISG agreed to a takeover by the US equity firm Cathexis. The contractor was then led by Paul Cossell until the chief executive stepped down late last year. In its latest results for the year ending 31 December 2020, revenue dropped by half a billion pounds to £2.04bn, due to the impact of the COVID pandemic. It remained profitable, reporting an £8.9m pre-tax profit for the year.

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