First takes full ownership of Somerset Passenger Solutions

FirstGroup has taken full ownership of Somerset Passenger Solutions (SPS) after acquiring the 50% shareholding in the joint venture (JV) that was held by JJP Holdings.

£8.4m has been paid on completion of the purchase with a potential deferred contribution of up to £1.6m if certain conditions are met, the group says.

Somerset Passenger Solutions was founded in 2016 as a JV. It operates 156 vehicles on a contract to provide employee transport for staff working at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station construction site. In the 12 months to 31 December 2020, it recorded a pre-tax profit of £3.95m on a turnover of £37m.

The purchase represents part of a strategy to develop and grow its share of the business-to-business service market, says First. SPS’s most recent annual report shows that while it has incurred “considerable expenditure” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, those costs were met in full by its client “and therefore the company has not suffered any adverse effects as a result of the crisis.”

Those accounts also forecast that the SPS business “will experience substantial growth over the next two years,” with a variety of processes in place to accommodate such expansion.

JJP Holdings Managing Director Jonathan Jones-Pratt won an initial contract at Hinkley Point almost 10 years ago through his company Crosville Motor Services that was served by a handful of minibuses.

Mr Jones-Pratt says that he is “immensely proud” that the business has developed so rapidly via the JV. He adds: “I feel that this is the right time to conclude a sale and step back from the SPS business in order to hand the reins to First Bus. I see this as a significant milestone that will support the delivery of many benefits to JJP Holdings. The deal will provide the group with the funds to continue our wider visions in business development and refocus group strategic direction.”

First Bus Portfolio MD Joe Thompson – who joined the group in the summer – has thanked Mr Jones-Pratt and says that the group is “excited about the future and continuing to ensure the safe, sustainable and efficient transport for Hinkley Point C workers. We look forward to leading SPS to further growth and success.”