Celero Commerce Anticipates $150M M&A Spend Over 3 Years with LLR Partners Backing, CEO Says

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Celero Commerce, a newly formed payments and business management software company with LLR Partners backing, could deploy around USD 150m toward M&A over the next three years, said CEO Kevin Jones.

Established in December, Nashville, Tennessee-based Celero has already completed four deals to date. The initial transaction was made that month as a strategic investment in Glendale, California-based UMS Banking, a full-service merchant acquirer, providing the core payment processing infrastructure for Celero.

The others are Minneapolis-based RazorSync in the field services vertical; Brentwood, Tennessee-based Elmhurst Financial Services, which is focused on payment processing for community and regional financial institutions; and Greenville, South Carolina-based Tandem Innovative Payment Solutions, a credit card processing company.

Going forward, ideal targets will include business management software and payment processors serving schools, non-profit organizations and government, the CEO said. Targets should be profitable and have EBITDA in the USD 2m to USD 10m range, he said. It will work to source deals later this year, and could close “a couple” of acquisitions in 2020, he added.

Jones is president of the industry trade organization, Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), and has been an executive in residence with LLR since September. He was formerly president of SignaPay and CEO of Anovia Payments.

He said Celero will serve as an acquisition platform with a goal to bundle commerce data analytics, business management tools, and rewards programs with payment processing capabilities for small businesses, so that the small businesses have an integrated and simplified user experience, and meanwhile Celero benefits from the economic advantage, Jones said.

Celero has 107 employees. Majority owned by LLR, it already does business across the US and plans to expand to Canada organically later this year, Jones said. Celero has over 25,000 merchant customers, processing USD 10bn in annual payments volume. It partners with TSYS, First Data and Global Payments for the processing capabilities.

Private equity firms have been actively rolling up in the middle-market payments space by forming vertical-focused acquisition organizations like Celero. In 2015, Aquiline Capital Partners created payments platform company Togetherwork in the membership vertical. After making nine acquisitions backed by Aquiline, it was sold to GI Partners in March 2018, and has acquired four more since then.

Celero is not rushed to contemplate an exit, Jones said. It will be focused on refining the platform, and down the road could be attractive to strategic or private equity acquirers, he added.

DLA Piper provides legal services to Celero, and Armanino provides accounting services. Pinnacle Bank is its commercial bank.