Startup transactions top October M&A activity

November 15, 2021

By: G. F. Gay Le Breton and Ryan Gerton November 15, 2021

Last month’s blockbuster announcement that New Orleans tech startup Lucid Holdings is selling to Swedish software firm Cint Group for $1.1 billion overshadowed the news of other Louisiana startup sales. Also in October, Georgia gas station heavyweight Mountain Express Oil Co. purchased Brothers Food Mart for an undisclosed price.

In the deal, Mountain Express, which owns or controls a national network of over 200 gas stations, purchased most of Brothers Food Mart’s Louisiana locations, their fueling rights and exclusive rights to the Brother’s Chicken name. The deal also formed a joint venture between Mountain Express and Brothers Chicken, the chain’s signature fried chicken product.

Palestine-born Imad Faiex “Eddie” Hamdan founded Brothers over 30 years ago, and he has seen the company grow from just a single location on the West Bank into the largest convenience store brand in the New Orleans area, with 50 stores in the region.

Mountain Express also will relocate its retail headquarters to a site on the West Bank. According to that company’s co-CEO Turjo Wadud, the company plans to triple Brothers store count over the next six months, bringing Brothers and its famous fried chicken to new markets in the south, including North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, as well as Louisiana, by applying the Brothers name to 100 pre-existing gas stations.

The buyers believe the deal could bring as many as 100 jobs from Georgia to New Orleans before the end of the year. Further, the increased demand for breading and spice manufacturing from greater fried chicken production will create around 20-25 new food processing jobs in New Orleans, Hamdan estimates.

In the industrial services sector, Baton Rouge-based Bernhard Capital partners agreed to sell its energy service business, Bernhard LLC to DIF Capital Partners, an infrastructure investment firm, for an undisclosed price. Bernhard’s senior management will “retain meaningful ownership” in the company after the deal closes.

Bernhard delivers distributed energy through its unique energy-as-a-service model. In other words, Bernhard enters into long-term, turnkey contracts to upgrade, retrofit and service large existing building energy facilities with the goal of better efficiency and substantial energy savings.

Gijs Voskuyl, partner and head of investments for DIF Infrastructure VI, said, “Bernhard’s approach fits perfectly with DIF’s public-private partnership expertise and ambition to invest in clean energy infrastructure solutions around the globe.”

Founded in 1919, Bernhard is made up of four companies: Bernhard Energy, Bernhard MCC, E.P. Breaux and Bernhard TME. It shifted its focus to an EaaS model in 2014.  The company has more than 2,000 employees across the U.S., with more than half of the workforce based in Louisiana. Berhard has 15 contracts to upgrade, retrofit and service large energy facilities in building complexes, mostly for colleges and health care centers. The company built its national headquarters in Metairie in early 2020.

In the tech space, Metairie-based Geocent LLC was acquired by Virginia-based Sev1Tech LLC for an undisclosed price. The two firms specialize in providing IT services to government entities. Geocent specializes in development, security and operations “DevSecOps” and engineering services. Private equity-backed Sev1Tech’s menu of services includes IT modernization, cloud, cybersecurity, engineering, fielding, training and program support services for federal government agencies and major commercial organizations.

According to Geocent’s CEO to Bobby Savoie, the combined companies will enhance the design, development and delivery of innovative solutions to further support federal customers. The acquisition will allow the combined entity to strengthen scalability and solutions for addressing its clients’ emerging demands and the increasing sophistication of government IT needs.

G.F. Gay Le Breton is managing director for Chaffe & Associates Inc., responsible for the merger and acquisition activities of the firm. Ryan Gerton is an associate with the firm. Investment banking services are provided by Chaffe Securities Inc., member FINRA/SIPC.