How to fund an acquisition

In his three-part series, Build or Buy? Equiteq’s Adam Blatchford discusses the pillars for successful growth through acquisition. In part one Adam addressed the strategic advantages acquisitions can offer.

Here in part two, he looks at the ways a professional service firm can fund an acquisition.

Generally, M&A news tends to give the impression that acquisition is an exercise exclusive to huge corporations with big cash balances. In the last year the consulting sector has seen a number of multi-billion dollar deals, including Blackstone spending $4.8 billion for Aon’s HR Outsourcing business to create Alight Solutions, and $2.6 billion for British engineering consultancy Atkins from SNC-Lavalin.

This perception fails to scratch the surface of acquisitions and hides the real picture. Of more than 2,500 consulting deals that took place in 2017, the mean deal size was a more reasonable $69 million. The median deal was even lower at $12 million, meaning half of all deals took place below this threshold. These numbers are far more attainable for a ‘regular’ growth-stage business and demonstrate that an acquisition is more achievable than one might have initially thought.

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January 2018: Consulting M&A and Equity Market Update

By Ramone Param, Associate Director, Equiteq

  • Major deals included Starr Investment Holdings’ acquisition of ACA Compliance, EY’s acquisition of Citizen, KPMG’s acquisition of Cyberinc, Oliver Wyman’s acquisition of Draw and the newly formed Kantar Consulting’s acquisition of Mash Strategy.
  • Equiteq advised New York-based leading market access consultancy Insight Strategy Advisors (ISA) on its sale to Precision Value & Health.
  • The Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index achieved strong gains of 6% over the month, with robust rises in all segmental indices apart from Media.

Starr Investment Holdings’ acquires ACA Compliance from New Mountain Capital

Target: ACA Compliance Group is a leading provider of risk management and technology solutions to the financial services industry in the U.S. and Europe.

Seller: New Mountain Capital is a U.S.-based private equity investor, with a focus on building and growth, pursuing long-term capital appreciation.

Buyer: Starr Investment Holdings is a New York-based investment adviser that invests in privately-held technology-enabled services businesses with a particular focus on industries such as financial services and healthcare services.

Deal Insight:
ACA Compliance was acquired by a consortium of investment firms including New Mountain Capital through an LBO in December 2013 for an undisclosed sum. Since the investment, ACA has rapidly grown its team. It has benefited from the rise in demand for risk and corporate governance services from financial services clients disrupted by new regulatory and compliance requirements since the last financial crisis.  Over the last few years, ACA invested in new technologies and expects to develop these further with its new backing from Starr. The new capital is also expected to enable ACA to expand into new service lines and industry verticals across the globe.

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Q4 Global Consulting Market M&A Update: Overall a modest decline quarter over quarter with large variations between regions and segments

  • Global deal activity fell 1% on prior quarter
  • Strong growth in M&A in North America and APAC
  • Management consulting sees strongest performance
  • Robust demand for healthcare consulting capabilities
  • Equiteq Share Price Index continues to rise

By Ramone Param, Associate Director, Equiteq

Access the full Q4 2017 Global Consulting Mergers and Acquisition Report. 

The final quarter of 2017 saw global deal activity in the consulting sector fall by 4% year-on-year and decline 1% as compared to the third quarter. As frequently observed, there were significant variations in deal activity by region and amongst market segments. There is strong buyer appetite for deals as we commence 2018. Continue reading

Equiteq’s Consulting Sector M&A Deals: Q4 2017

  • The BioTech Quality Group joins Assystem S.A.
  • ShiftIN Partners sold to Sia Partners
  • Livingbridge invests in TSA Management
  • Pathway to Your Potential completes strategic alliance with Mercer Australia

Last quarter proved to be a busy one for Equiteq and its clients with consulting deals closing around the world. The following recaps the sale and investment opportunities completed for clients in Q4 2017.


The BioTech Quality Group joins Assystem S.A.
Industry: Life sciences consulting Date: 1 December 2017 Geography: Central Europe

Equiteq facilitated the sale of Life sciences consulting client, The Biotech Quality Group (BQG), to international engineering group, Assystem S.A.

BQG specializes in performance management and regulatory compliance in Europe’s pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and has developed a range of bespoke methods and tools aimed at increasing the maturity and transforming the practices of the (bio)pharmaceutical industry.

The strategic acquisition of BQG significantly moves Assystem forward in the implementation of its Life sciences strategy of becoming a European leader in the areas of commissioning, certification, validation and regulatory compliance in the European pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

The deal is also indicative of the growing volume of life sciences M&A expected to take place in 2018. Recent reports by EY and law firm Baker McKenzie predict a significant increase in deals, with EY estimating 2018 total deal values exceeding $200 billion. According to EY’s report, 60 percent of life sciences executives surveyed in October 2017 plan to actively pursue M&A in the next 12 months, compared with 46 percent in April.

To read our case study on this deal, please click here.

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Insights of the Year – Our Top 10 Blogs of 2017

2017 was a busy year for Equiteq, closing deals and advising consulting firm owners on their growth and exit strategies across Europe, the US, Australia and Asia. Within our market there are unique takeaways and insights for owners to consider when thinking about a sale.

As owners and acquirers set their 2018 priorities, we recap the learnings from Equiteq’s most read blogs of 2017.

  1. Should I sell my consulting firm to an overseas buyer?

Here we discuss the opportunities overseas buyers present, how to attract them and how to deal with the challenges these approaches can bring.

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December 2017: Consulting M&A and Equity Market Update

By Ramone Param, Associate Director, Equiteq

Xafinity acquires Punter Southall businesses

Xafinity is acquiring the actuarial, pensions administration and investment consulting businesses of Punter Southall, in a deal valued at £153m. Xafinity provides pensions actuarial advice and administration services to 550 occupational pension funds in the UK. As part of the transaction, it will acquire Punter Southall Limited, Punter Southall Investment Consulting and Punter Southall Administration Limited for a combination of cash and shares. The deal is expected to create the largest pure-play pensions consultancy in the UK, with c.900 employees across the country, that generates over £100m of revenue. After the transaction, Punter Southall’s remaining operations will be focused on workplace savings, health and protection consulting and wealth management.

The deal is set to be the first major acquisition in the investment advisory industry since the Financial Conduct Authority referred the industry to the UK’s competition regulator. The referral is expected to result in new rules that distributes clients of the big three (Aon, Mercer and Willis Towers Watson), while driving consolidation amongst smaller advisers.

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How to attract the buyer that is right for you

Ramone Param, Associate Director, Equiteq recently led a webinar looking at how to attract the type of buyer that best aligns with a seller’s business strategy and future growth trajectory.

In the consulting sector, the majority of deals are undertaken by strategic buyers. One of the most prolific buyers, Accenture, completed seven deals in Q3 2017 alone. The involvement of private equity firms in the consulting sector has traditionally been cyclical, although recently there are many actively acquiring private equity investors within the sector.

When considering a sale, it is important to understand the differences in the way these two buyer groups approach transactions to ensure you are partnering with a buyer whose business strategy aligns with yours.

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