Sia Partners pushes deeper into UK advisory market with Molten deal

09 September 2016 Consultancy.uk

Sia Partners has in a bid to beef up its oil and gas business acquired Molten, a UK management consultancy based in London. The deal, the value of which has not been disclosed, sees 30 consultants transfer to the French-origin consulting group, more than doubling its on the ground footprint in the UK, as well as adding a small team in the US. 

Founded in 1999, in Paris, Sia Partners today is one of the globe’s larger management consulting firms. The firm has seen rapid growth in recent years – Sia Partners doubled in size over the last three years and today employs just under 850 consultants across 20 offices globally.

Last week Matthieu Courtecuisse, founder and CEO of Sia Partners, unveiled that the consultancy has bolstered its European footprint with the acquisition of Molten, a mid-sized consulting firm with offices in London, UK and Houston, US. The move builds on the firm’s corporate strategy, known as ‘Strong Momentum’, launched back in 2014, which, among others, sets out a path to break through the barrier of 1,000 consultants by financial year 2017.

Besides building on organic growth in its key markets and expansion into new markets (e.g. Tokyo, Japan and Charlotte, US last year), Sia Partners has followed a selective M&A strategy to ramp up its operations in countries. In 2015 the firm bought French-based procurement expert Sourcing France (~10 consultants), in 2013 it purchased the international business of rival Investance (~60 consultants) and a year earlier it leveraged the acquisition of OTC Americas as a springboard to enter the North American consulting market. 

Sia Partners Worldwide

Molten, the latest in the line of deals for Sia Partners, was founded in 2003 by Rory Colfer, a former advisor at KPMG and Deloitte, and Irene Molodtsov, a former consultant at KPMG and ODL Consulting. The London-based consultancy built a strong track record since its inception, mainly working for clients in the Oil & Gas market, including the likes of BP, Gazprom, Shell, and MOL. On the back of the firm’s growth and client work Molten managed to scoop several awards in the UK, with analysts earmarking the firm one of the success stories of the UK consulting market over the past ten years. The oil price crisis, and the resulting consulting ban across most of the international oil companies, however severely impacted Molten’s business model, and slided the business advisory into a difficult period. 

Colfer and Molodtsov returned to the drawing table, and together with the other partners reinvented Molten’s business model, choosing to diversify to other industries and focus the firm’s functional skillset to managing complex transformation projects. The transition has paid off – over the past 24 months, Molten has acquired a range of new top tier clients such as HSBC, Prudential, Bombardier, Jaguar Land Rover, Deutsche Bank, and Pentland Brands. Today, Molten’s fee income exceeds £6 million (€6,9 million) and the firm is profitable. 

As a result of the deal, Molten’s London and Houston offices will be integrated into Sia Partners’ network, with Molten for the time being continuing to operate under its own brand (the tagline ‘Sia Partner Group’ has been added to its branding). Following integration, set to be completed by the end of 2016, the Molten brand will be dropped, and Sia Partners’ UK operation will consist of 60 consultants in four practices (combined revenues of £9 million), while in the US the firm will have 80 consultants, now across four offices, with total revenues of £13 million.

“With this acquisition, Sia Partners becomes a global player in management consultancy to companies in the Oil & Gas sector (IOC, NOC, OFS), with a reach spanning from the USA to Southeast Asia, as well as Europe and the Middle East”, says Courtecuisse. Sia Partners focuses mainly on the mid-market space in the Oil & Gas industry, a segment which, according to recent research from BDO, is finding itself in considerable stress and distress.

Molten Group

Commenting on the deal, Molodtsov and Colfer say that the merger between the two independent consulting companies feels like a “natural combination”, stating “We’ve known Sia Partners’ executives for several years now, and we have had the occasion to collaborate on a few projects.” In their role of co-CEOs of Sia Partners UK / Molten UK Molodtsov and Colfer will in the coming months design a to-be Operating Model for the combined operations and lead the post-merger integration effort. In the US Wayne Campbell and Noel Connolly, currently Directors at Molten in Houston, will join the US’ management team, and report to Dan Connor, Managing Director and Head of Sia Partners in North America.

Looking ahead, Courtecuisse notes that he is pleased with the addition, adding that across the board the consultancy is well on track to meet its strategic objectives across the key pillars of revenues, global reach, development/deployment of practices, reputation and talent management. Commenting on the ambition in the UK, the CEO remarks that the firm wants to expand the team to more than 100 consultants within 18 months. “Though Brexit is going to complicate matters for many companies in Britain, we are very well-placed to advise our clients as we start to see a more stable commodity pricing environment and companies return to growth.”

Colfer adds: “Thanks to Sia Partners’ financial capabilities, and by quickly integrating the two teams, we are positive we can reach over 100 consultants in less than two years.”

Last year another UK consultancy, Hudson & Yorke, was also picked up by a French-origin consulting firm: Solucom.

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