Business

Norbrook muscles up with Express Fitness acquisition

BY KARENA BENNETT
Business reporter
bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 22, 2019

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INVESTMENT holding company Norbrook Equity Partners has acquired a 70 per cent stake in one of Jamaica's largest gym chains, Express Fitness Ltd.

Through the acquisition, Norbrook Equity aims to leverage its tenured investment and operating expertise to position Express Fitness as the leading provider of health and wellness solutions across the Caribbean region.

Currently, the gym chain operates 11 facilities across Jamaica. However, under the leadership of Norbrook Equity Executive Chairman Khary Robinson, plans are underway for Fitness Express to get a toehold into Cayman, The Bahamas, Barbados and Trinidad.

In an e-mailed response to Jamaica Observer queries yesterday, Robinson said he has already earmarked $300 million of fresh capital for the gym chain, part of which will be used for at least two acquisitions.

He noted that Norbrook Equity is now in a sensitive stage of the negotiation process, but did not disclose a timeline for the acquisitions. Robinson, however, confirmed that the acquisitions will be made in the Caribbean markets identified, while adding that Express Fitness is also looking to engage potential partners in the Caribbean.

“Before we make an investment, we always have a defined path for growth. Accordingly, we have already lined up a few key acquisitions, several new gym sites that are primed for our gym format, and a new gym concept that is proven to bring unique value to the market and the business. So, to say we are excited about the growth prospects of this business would be an understatement,” said Robinson.

A month into operating Express Fitness, Robinson also wants to integrate new fitness and wellness solutions, aimed at expanding the gym's current market share.

“Our aim is that Express, through a number of other brands and solutions, becomes a provider of much more. That said, we understand what our core skill set is today and will not move away from that: 24/7 fitness facilities that are first-rate and affordable will always form the basis of our offering and we plan to refine that offering even more,” Robinson told the Caribbean Business Report.

With the continued growth and awareness of health and wellness in the Caribbean, the chairman said he saw the opportunity to leverage the superior brand and infrastructure of Express Fitness to develop the first wellness platform in the region – including fitness centres, concept gyms, nutrition centres and other wellness solutions.

Still, Robinson admits that there is work to be done in the local market and has revealed plans to expand Express Fitness' footprint across Jamaica and using the extended capacity to push group initiatives. The planned initiatives will include Express Fitness' existing corporate fitness solution – where the gym provides a cost-effective health and wellness solution for corporations and their employees.

The plan for Norbrook Equity to drive the regional expansion of Express Fitness began in late 2017 when the company approached the owners to acquire a controlling stake in the rapidly expanding fitness business.

Founded by the Clarkes, a husband and wife team, Express Fitness was created to provide Jamaicans with convenient access to premium fitness facilities at an affordable price. By successfully addressing the growing needs in the market, the company expanded over six years to 11 locations across Jamaica.

But after relocating abroad for personal reasons, the Clarkes later accepted an offer for Norbrook Equity to acquire a controlling stake in the business and expand it into new markets and new sectors.

“We quickly identified a significant opportunity for the company to expand throughout Jamaica and the Caribbean, but knew we needed the right partner to realise the potential. After spending meaningful time with the team at Norbrook and seeing how well they operated their other businesses, we decided to accept their offer and partner with them going forward,” said Ansel Clarke, founder of Express Fitness.

Norbrook has had success in identifying growth sectors and developing businesses in those industries through its unique approach of mixing acquisitions and organic growth.

After 33 acquisitions over the last decade, Norbrook Equity now operates Mailpac; transaction processing company ePay; ice manufacturing company Pure National Ltd; the local arm of the world's largest car rental company Hertz; water provider JamAgua; and several other platforms in Jamaica, Florida and West Africa.

“We will always look at acquisitions as a way to expand our offerings and that will be no different at Express. The difference with Express is that we will not only be looking locally but regionally as well,” he said.


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