Equiteq’s David Jorgenson and Jean-Louis Michelet met at ESSEC Business School in Singapore to discuss the opportunities and challenges impacting M&A activities in the Asia-Pacific region.
In this blog, the final part of their discussion, they both explore the huge opportunities for knowledge-driven services businesses in the Asia-Pacific region.
Simply put, there are massive opportunities in Asia-Pacific for knowledge-driven B2B services companies. While most of the region’s services markets are not as advanced as in more developed economies in Europe and North America, globalization and technological revolution are driving international demand for specialist businesses in Asia-Pacific.
The review covers deal activity and equity market trends across fives consulting segments: Management Consulting, IT Services, Media Agencies, Engineering Services and Human Resources. Equity market trends are analyzed through the Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index, the only published share price index for the industry.
Strong deal activity
In 2016, the number of completed transactions in the consulting sector nudged up to reach a nine-year high. This was in spite of the restraining influences of slowing growth in global GDP, the UK’s vote to Brexit and the US Presidential election, which caused a slowdown in the preceding quarters. Activity from both strategic and financial buyers swiftly bounced back, and the year ended with conviction and momentum that has carried into 2017.
The top consulting segments for deal activity were the rapidly evolving Management Consulting, IT Services and Media Agency segments.
There may not be a more fundamentally important topic for consulting firms than improving profits.
Shareholders ultimately want a return on their investment and buyers are looking for evidence of healthy growth, while strong profitability is required to sustain growth and equity realization.
The levers that need to be pulled to improve margin – revenue and cost – might be well understood, but the combination of activities required are often more nuanced.
We’ve identified the top strategies firms can use to start improving profits now:
The leadership team must make profitability an ongoing focus
Profitability has to become embedded in the leadership team’s mindset for sustainable margin improvement to be successful.
Achieving this requires strong communication around accountabilities, clear success measures being established and tactical activities – such as margin exception reporting, resource management, and utilization forecasting – becoming integrated into regular business updates.
Once a shared understanding of what success looks like is established within this team, firms can create strategic work streams – such as market expansion or IP development – and make people accountable.
Earlier this week, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would take a more targeted approach to site visits of H-1B requesters and issued guidance that entry-level computer programmer positions could not be presumed specialty occupations, a requirement for the issue of a H1-B. The Justice Department also issued a press release cautioning employers petitioning for H-1B visas to not discriminate against American workers. There is an expectation that an executive order will also be introduced to call for a further review of the H-1B work visa.
Indian IT Services firms expected to face increasing pressures from H1-B reforms
The tightening of U.S. visa rules under the new administration is expected to place increasing pressures on costs for the Indian IT outsourcing industry. Over 60% of the industry’s export revenue comes from the U.S. and this work is dependent on cheap non-American coders and engineers. These workers will typically use H1-B visas to work locally, while getting paid a lower wage as compared with local non H1-B employees. Although the H1-B visa system works via a lottery system, Indian outsourcers are considered to be the top recipients of these visas, with some believed to be using loopholes, such as filing multiple applications for individual workers, which are not available to smaller companies.
According to a report by The Register, Oracle has hired consultants to conduct due diligence research on acquiring Accenture. Accenture is a major Oracle partner, while Oracle has a material services business which operates alongside its software offering. The combination would significantly enhance both companies position in their respective markets, creating a leading provider of end-to-end digital transformation products and services.
A deal with Accenture would follow Oracle’s recent acquisition of NetSuite for $9.3bn and its acquisition of PeopleSoft in 2005 for $10.3bn. With Accenture’s market cap at over $77bn, the deal would be by far its largest acquisition to date.
Oracle has been focusing on its cloud business, but is still considered to be behind market leaders Amazon Web Services, as well as Microsoft, Google and IBM. Following reports of the deal, Accenture’s stock fell, with some equity analysts raising concerns about the deal’s implications for Accenture’s independence and the risks to Accenture’s strong relationships with Oracle’s competitors like SAP, Salesforce, ServiceNow and Workday.