Having invested in the management buyout of Steeper in 2005, we needed to respond to a dramatic shift in the company’s end market. We worked with the management team to progress from being wholly dependent on the NHS to having a range of products with international appeal.
With NHS demand uncertain, we saw potential to refocus the business as a global manufacturer of orthotic and prosthetic products. We invested further in Steeper to support these growth plans, helping it to successfully break into new markets, including the US and the Middle East.
Our investment also supported the launch of technologically advanced products – such as the bebionic hand, which met a need for a high-functionality, lower-cost, multi-articulating hand. We provided £1.5 million in additional funding to support the research and development needed.
Before our involvement, 10% of Steeper’s turnover was international. By 2017, this was figure had grown to around 35%.
In February 2017, Steeper’s hi-tech bebionic business was sold to the German trade buyer Ottobock. We found this strategic acquirer through our extensive network of contacts, and led negotiations on behalf of Steeper to maximise returns for all shareholders. But before the sale, during advanced negotiations, the 2015 Boxing Day storms put all of Steeper’s manufacturing facilities under 5-7 feet of water. All exit activities were postponed until the business was back on its feet, but throughout that period we maintained the relationship with Ottobock.
The flood was a great opportunity to show the depth of our support for Steeper. We worked closely with the business to maximise the insurance claim and speed up the move to new premises. As well as providing direct support, we brought together a team of specialists to get the business back on its feet as quickly as possible.
Our proposed structure for the sale to Ottobock enabled us to obtain a good return for the bebionic division, while also supporting the management team to buy out the rest of the business. Bebionic fits well into Ottobock’s existing product portfolio, and we’re confident that the remaining Steeper business will continue to achieve its growth ambitions.
Paul Steeper, CEO, Steeper