Sectors Energy and infrastructure, specialist engineering
Location Wallsend, UK (HQ), Houston, Singapore, Macaé (Brazil)
Investment type Buyout
Date of exit April, 2015
Investment status Realised
Return 2.2x; 12% IRR


The company

SMD is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of a wide range of subsea vehicle systems. It is the world’s no.1 supplier of large specialised systems for laying subsea cables and pipelines in trenches and one of the largest suppliers of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) unmanned submarines that provide subsea intervention work in depths and conditions that are inaccessible for human divers.

Established in 1971 by the Reece family, the company dominates the market for subsea vehicles. In fact, 90% of the world’s fibre-optic network has been laid by vehicles manufactured by SMD. The company primarily supplies the oil and gas sector, but also delivers bespoke equipment for the telecoms, renewable energy, mining and defence industries.

Growth strategy

In 2008, SMD’s entrepreneurial founder decided to reduce his managerial responsibilities and focus more on product innovation. In order to do this he knew he needed to change the ownership structure of the business, but was keen to find an investor who would nurture the business he had worked hard to establish. That’s where we came in.

I am proud of the business SMD is today. Inflexion has been an active and supportive investor with whose help we have diversified our customer base and the markets which we serve. SMD is now well positioned for the future. Andrew Hodgson, CEO, SMD

The Inflexion difference

We recognised the challenge immediately. Following our investment, we collaborated to find the right Chairman and CEO to relieve the pressure and responsibility from the company’s founder, facilitating his shift into product innovation. Inflexion worked closely with the ambitious management team to professionalise systems and processes, enabling SMD to optimise production and focus on business development. This led to the opening of a second UK factory, increasing manufacturing capacity. With an innovative and market-leading product offering, SMD leveraged our experience in internationalising businesses to further extend its footprint and open sales offices in Singapore, USA and Brazil, significantly expanding its range of customers across complimentary sectors. In addition, we enlisted our Digital Director who identified the opportunity to introduce an intelligent spare parts and servicing model to optimise the operational effectiveness of the ROVs and facilitate future earnings through monetising the data which they capture.

SMD is a unique company in the global subsea market and we wish the team every success under Chinese ownership.