Trinity grows Visterra Landscaping with add-ons; BlackRock looking at education as Clearlake inks deal

Clearlake-backed Discovery Education agrees to acquire edtech firm DreamBox Learning.

Good morning Hubsters, Craig McGlashan here with the Tuesday Wire.

We’re kicking off with an exclusive, as Obey Martin Manayiti speaks to Trinity Hunt Partners’ Garrett Greer about a pair of add-ons his firm announced this morning.

Next, Irien Joseph talks to BlackRock’s Nathalie von Niederhaeusern about the firm’s dealmaking outlook for the second half of the year.

We then finish with a look at a Clearlake Capital portfolio company making an add-on in the education sector.

Landscape deal
It’s always nice to start the day with a scoop, and PE Hub’s Obey Martin Manayiti has kindly obliged, speaking exclusively to Trinity Hunt Partners about a pair of add-on acquisitions for its Visterra Landscape Group platform.

The acquisitions of Cincinnati-based Oberson’s Nursery and Landscapes and Wylie, Texas-based Dyna-Mist add to the platform’s initial investment in Riverside Services in December.

The firm will also announce the appointment of Alan Handley as CEO. Handley comes to the platform from LRS, a nationwide waste management and recycling business.

The goal for Chicago-based Visterra is to create a “super-regional or national” commercial landscaping platform, said Handley and Trinity Hunt partner Garrett Greer in an interview with PE Hub.

“We are in the business of building platforms, initially partnering with established local companies in an attractive sector and then joining hands with additional partner businesses as a part of a buy-and-build strategy,” said Greer. “We have plans to go super-regional or national with many of our investments, and that’s the case at Visterra.”

Handley added: “The core attributes that we like about this sector are that it is recession resistant; the business demands a higher level of service and professionalism compared to residential landscaping, so there are higher barriers to entry; and there are ample opportunities to cross-sell multiple lines of our existing business (maintenance, snow, sweeping, enhancements and construction) into any existing channel.”

Trinity Hunt is not the only private equity firm investing in commercial landscaping. Just yesterday, One Rock Capital Partners unveiled a $500 million investment in BrightView Holdings, a Blue Bell, Pennsylvania-based commercial landscaping services company.

Deal landscape
Adopting a buy-and-build strategy to create super-regional or national champions might pay off in Europe more than the US, Nathalie von Niederhaeusern, head of EMEA, BlackRock Private Equity Partners, told Irien Joseph.

“If you compare it with the US, Europe has generally much more fragmented industries,” she said. “GPs are looking to help companies consolidate with synergistic businesses that often are operating in different countries, with different languages and different customer bases.”

Von Niederhaeusern was sharing her outlook on the dealmaking environment for the second half of the year, which included these thoughts on which sectors will prove attractive.

Which sectors are you looking at?
If you think how we consume, how we inform ourselves, how we buy, how we trade, technology’s touching all these different sectors and will continue to do so. Healthcare has also proven to be resilient over time. Food has been an area of focus for us in Europe and the US. Education is another topic that is essential to society where we’re increasingly looking. Lastly, everything that touches decarbonization, sustainability and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Read the full interview to find out whether von Niederhaeusern expects dealflow to pick up and the outlook for exits.

While BlackRock is looking more and more at education, Clearlake Capital Group has made a move in the sector. Its portfolio company Discovery Education has agreed to acquire Bellevue, Washington-based DreamBox Learning, a PK-12 education technology provider.
DreamBox Learning’s current investors Elliott Investment Management L.P. and TPG’s The Rise Fund will retain minority stakes in the company.

Discovery Education is a global education technology company.

Broadband bonds
Finally, as someone who grew up in a rural area that always seemed like the last thought when it came to infrastructure rollouts, I was interested to read a piece in the Wall Street Journal today about how private equity firms are financing the push for fiber-optic internet access.

Private equity is borrowing “billions” via asset-backed bonds to bring fiber-optic broadband access to rural areas, according to the WSJ.

Unfortunately for people still living in my hometown, though, this big push is only happening in the US.

OK that’s all from me today – Rafael Canton will be with you tomorrow for Wire Wednesday.