AN asset finance company in Blackburn is on its way to becoming one of the UK's largest independent outfits after swallowing up a Cheshire rival.

Brownhill-based Praetura has bought out Wilmslow's Kingsway Asset Finance in a 'seven-figure deal', it has been announced.

The move will create a consolidated business with a £100million loan book, according to bosses.

And the enlarged outfit should be able to pass on its' wider expertise to more small and medium-sized businesses across East Lancashire.

Forty staff will now be employed by Praetura, which has traded out of Haydock House, off Ramsgreave Drive, since 2013.

Mike Hartley, the firm's Blackburn-educated managing director, said: "After achieving our five-year plan of building a loan book in excess of £60million, we wanted to take the business to the next level.

"Our new 'buy and build' model will be a key part of our growth strategy moving forward, and Kingsway Asset Finance was the perfect company to join us on this journey.

"The company complements what Praetura already does, allowing us to widen the group’s product range and help us get to where we want to be as a business."

The father-of-one, who lives in Old Langho, helped to launch the company after a working life which had already taken in stints with NatWest Bank and Sun Life of Canada.

Peadar O’Reilly, a founding director there, added: "The fact that Kingsway is a well-known business established on the same foundations as us was really important.

"They've got a talented team with strong management and an exceptional commitment to customer service, helping this country's small and medium-sized businesses to fulfil their potential."

Adrian Anthon, managing director of Kingsway, said: “After 21 years as an independent company, I am delighted that Kingsway has joined the Praetura Asset Finance Group

"From my first contact with Praetura, I was enthused by our common vision for the future of the enlarged entity and what we can achieve together.

"The fact that both companies have their own specific strengths and very little overlap was an important factor in my decision to sell Kingsway to Praetura Asset Finance."

Mr Anthon will be joining the Pratetura board as a result of the takeover.

The deal was struck after RM Capital came up with a £15million bespoke loan programme

Pietro Nicholls, Portfolio Manager at RM Fund's portfolio manager, said: "With a well-established mid-market enterprise, demonstrable cash flows and highly experienced management team, Praetura fits our selective investment criteria."

While Praetura specialises in hard assets such as buildings or commodities, Kingsway's core business has always revolved around either soft assets, like information or brand trading, and business loans.

For the past few year Praetura has been embarking on a steady expansion programme, which has included the appointment of a new director to boost its reputation down south.

And in 2015 the company, which also has a corporate centre in the Castlefield area of Manchester, launched its own graduate scheme, to bring forward the next generation of trainee business development managers.

The firm also secured a £15million financing package from the Royal Bank of Scotland around the same time. Loans, hire purchase help and refinancing packages between £10,000 and £3million have been behind the outfit's success.