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First Advantage to Acquire Background Check Company Sterling for $2.2 Billion in Cash and Stock
Feb 29, 2024

First Advantage Corporation has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Sterling Check Corp. for approximately $2.2 billion, inclusive of debt. The merger unites complementary technology and services in employment background screening and identity verification, targeting sectors like healthcare and retail. The deal, enhancing product offerings and expected to generate significant synergies, aims for a boost in operational efficiency and EPS growth. The combined entity will continue under First Advantage’s leadership, expecting to leverage innovations such as AI-driven automation for better customer and applicant services. The transaction, backed by major shareholders and financial institutions, is slated for completion in Q3 2024, subject to regulatory approvals.

  • Extends First Advantage’s high-quality and cost-effective background screening, identity, and verification technology solutions for the benefit of both companies’ customers across industry verticals and geographies

  • Enables increased investment in Artificial Intelligence and next-generation Digital Identification technologies for enhanced customer and applicant experience

  • Drives attractive total shareholder return outlook, including at least $50 million of synergies, implying expected double-digit Adjusted EPS accretion immediately on a run-rate synergy basis and accelerated earnings growth potential from topline development, synergies, and deleveraging

ATLANTA and INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — First Advantage Corporation (NASDAQ:FA), a leading provider of employment background screening, identity, and verification solutions, announced today that it has entered into a definitive purchase agreement to acquire Sterling Check Corp. (NASDAQ:STER), a provider of background screening and identity services. First Advantage will issue a combination of cash and stock valuing Sterling at approximately $2.2 billion, including Sterling’s outstanding debt.

First Advantage and Sterling offer complementary technology solutions and services that enable employers across healthcare, retail & e-commerce, transportation, manufacturing, financial services, and other industries to manage risk and hire the best talent. Customers will benefit from accelerated investment in innovation and access to a broader suite of products and solutions to meet their needs, fueling growth of the combined company.

Building on pro forma combined revenue of $1.5 billion for the year ended December 31, 2023, the transaction is expected to deliver at least $50 million in run-rate synergies, implying immediate double-digit EPS accretion on a run-rate synergy basis. The combined company will have greater diversification of revenue across customer segments, industries, and geographies, reducing seasonality and improving resource planning and operational efficiency.

Following the transaction, we expect First Advantage to continue compounding EPS at a teens growth rate over time through a combination of topline growth, ongoing synergy capture, and significant deleveraging via strong organic free cash flow generation. First Advantage will share additional forward-looking financial information regarding the transaction’s impact at or around the time of closing.

“We are thrilled to announce the acquisition of Sterling, demonstrating our commitment to delivering high-quality, cost-effective employment background screening and identity verification solutions that enhance value for customers by helping them hire smarter and onboard faster, while also positioning First Advantage for long-term value creation,” said Scott Staples, Chief Executive Officer of First Advantage. “This combination unlocks efficiencies and opportunities to fuel incremental growth and invest in new technology solutions, including AI-driven automation, while further diversifying our business for greater resilience. We look forward to welcoming Sterling’s talented employees to First Advantage and implementing best practices from both organizations to better address the needs of applicants and employers of all sizes and across all verticals.”

“We are excited to be combining with First Advantage to accelerate Sterling’s strategic goals and deliver added value for our company, shareholders, clients, and employees,” said Josh Peirez, Chief Executive Officer of Sterling. “We look forward to offering clients a broader suite of solutions, while maintaining the excellent service they have come to expect. Importantly, this transaction delivers immediate value to Sterling shareholders, as well as the opportunity to participate in the compelling, long-term upside potential of a combined company that is positioned better than ever to serve the dynamic needs of our customers.”

Certain entities advised by or affiliated with Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC., which own approximately 52.8% of Sterling’s outstanding shares, entered into a support agreement pursuant to which they have delivered a written consent approving the transaction. CDPQ is an investor in one of these entities.

“Goldman Sachs and CDPQ are very pleased with Sterling’s performance over the last eight years. Josh has been an outstanding leader and partner, growing the business, and successfully bringing the company to the public markets. We are excited by the transformational opportunity offered by combining with First Advantage,” said Adrian Jones, Global Chairman & Co-Head of the Private Equity business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

Following the closing of the transaction, Scott Staples will continue to serve as Chief Executive Officer of First Advantage. Josh Peirez, Sterling’s Chief Executive Officer, will be offered a seat on the First Advantage Board of Directors. First Advantage will continue to be headquartered in Atlanta, GA.

Transaction Details

The transaction consideration is comprised of approximately $1.2 billion in cash and 27.15 million shares of First Advantage common stock. Under the terms of the agreement, Sterling shareholders will elect to receive either $16.73 in cash or 0.979 shares of First Advantage common stock for each Sterling share. The shareholder election will be subject to proration, resulting in approximately 72% of Sterling’s shares being exchanged for cash consideration and 28% being exchanged for First Advantage common stock. The $16.73 per share consideration represents a premium of 35% to Sterling’s closing price of $12.42 on February 28, 2024, and a 26% premium to Sterling’s 30-day volume weighted average price (VWAP). Sterling shareholders are expected to own approximately 16% of the combined company after closing, and current First Advantage shareholders will own approximately 84%.

First Advantage intends to fund the cash portion of the transaction and retire existing Sterling debt through the issuance of $1.8 billion of new debt and the use of balance sheet cash. First Advantage has secured fully committed financing from Bank of America, N.A., Barclays Bank PLC, Bank of Montreal, Jefferies Finance LLC and Royal Bank of Canada.

The transaction has been unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies.

The transaction is expected to close in approximately the third quarter of 2024, with the closing and timing thereof subject to required regulatory approvals, clearances, and other customary closing conditions.
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