GLOBAL M&A UPDATE – Q3 2020

After a sharp Q2 decline in deal flow due to Covid-19, Q3 shows a notable recovery in most markets.

Despite the headwinds of the global health emergency and the resulting economic uncertainty, deal volumes showed a strong bounce-back, with a 20 % quarter on quarter increase in completed deals.

Many of the deals closing in Q3 have been executed largely remotely, with limited direct engagement between sellers and buyers during the process – historically very unusual for a sector so dependent on talent and cultural alignment.

The strength of the M&A rebound showcases the speed of adoption of new ways of engaging customers, deploying technology and streamlining operations to leverage growth opportunities and preserve profitability – as well, in many cases, as the ability to adapt propositions to directly support the pandemic response.

C-19 has accelerated existing medium to long-term trends around digitization. This is driving sustained, competitive demand from multiple buyer and investor groups for knowledge economy firms that bring digital transformation advisory capabilities and service-enhancing digital tools.

These tailwinds have already helped technology services M&A back to year-on-year growth and are supporting improvements in adjacent and converging management consulting and marketing/information services players. The large drop in human capital and engineering deals in Q3, 2020 compared to last year should be considered in light of relatively low overall deal volumes which means those segments are in any case more volatile when compared over a short period – further data points are needed to establish if M&A in those markets will continue to be adversely affected.

David Jorgenson, CEO, Equiteq said “Despite the rising uncertainty about when this pandemic will end, the market is starting to bounce back and adapt to new working practices out of necessity with digital transformation driving the growth. Covid has caused us to change and this change is now our new normal”

Download the report here.

Monthly Update – M&A Dealflow and Share Prices Increasing Despite Uncertainties

Last week, a well-known UK retailer tweeted, “A customer has just bought a 2021 calendar. Sir, we admire your optimism.”  

A neat encapsulation of how uncertainty across health, economic and political landscapes continues to shape 2020. And yet: stock markets continue to climb the wall of worry, driven by technology and – increasingly – knowledge economy stocks, while commentators continue to walk back from their worst-case forecasts for both the pandemic and its financial impacts.

As early as the start of May, our team started to observe positive signs in knowledge economy M&A markets. Already, after a short hiatus, existing deals were continuing, buyers and investors were already back in the market, and owners of resilient business were still pro-actively considering their exit options.

This momentum has translated into deal completions over the summer, with four Equiteq deals closed since the end of June, including:

  • Advising 4C, a leading Salesforce multi-cloud partner in Europe and the Middle East with over 350 employees, on its acquisition by Wipro – continuing the trend of consolidation in the Salesforce ecosystem, and illustrating Equiteq’s leading position advising on transactions in the digital transformation space
  • Providing advice to SIA Partners on their acquisition of Pathfinder, a leading change and transformation consultancy, as SIA continues their journey to strengthen their presence in UK and Ireland, and build a leading Tier-1 independent consulting firm
  • Advising Water Street Partners, a leading joint venture and alliance advisory firm, on their sale to Ankura, continuing Ankura’s push to establish itself as one of the leading global consulting firms. Our client’s comment neatly sums up the last few months: “It is hard to imagine the Equiteq team delivering a deal under more difficult circumstances. The COVID pandemic was breaking out as we signed the LOI … the team steered us through tremendous uncertainty with dogged persistence, extraordinary effort, real creativity, and integrity.”
  • Advising on a cross-border deal in S.E. Asia – details embargoed until September: more to come

It continues to be our view that the large pool of investors/buyers in market is not seeing adequate deal flow of high-quality acquisition targets like these. Owners of firms that are positioned to be among the early waves of new deals to come to market will meet this pent-up demand and may command a market premium.

Despite this, our community of owners continues to have reservations. In late July, we surveyed owners on their attitudes to M&A. You can download the report at the bottom of this post (or here). Key observations include:

  • By far the biggest concern owners had about M&A post-Covid is the prospect of achieving a valuation that reflects the true value of their business
  • Most owners are pessimistic about the strength of the economic recovery, and / or have seen detrimental impacts on their trading (although relatively few reported a strong negative impact)
  • Most of you don’t believe the worst of the health emergency is over

It’s probably worth re-stating that in current deals, to date, we have seen minimal impact on headline valuations – negotiations have centred primarily on deal structure (e.g. earn-outs not starting until six months after signing)

You might draw a tentative conclusion from the above that owners would delay their M&A process – but over half of those we polled are not delaying their plans. Perhaps one reason for this is – as a small but increasing numbers of owners told us – that the uncertainty and risks of delaying a deal outweigh the perceived benefits. Moreover, from conversations with the buyer community, we hear that, while the quantity, or even the overall quality, of bids and interest may have suffered in some processes, the knock-out offer is still there, at the same high value that might have been anticipated pre-pandemic.

Do get in contact with us if you’d like to talk through any of our recent deals and our latest thoughts on market trends – in particular, on valuations and deal structures.

In the meantime, an update on the Knowledge Economy Share Price Index. We’ve seen our index continue its recovery from March lows, easily outperforming the S&P 500, reflecting the importance of our sector to economic growth, and the increasing application of technology within sector firms.

The only sub-sector still down on a 12-month basis is “Human Resources”, which directly mirrors what we saw in our survey. A ray of hope there though – we’re seeing some training, leadership development and recruitment businesses with positive momentum (especially ones with some tech-enablement behind them). It could be a sector that benefits very strongly from a rebound as end clients scale up their investment in people and workforce transformation post-pandemic.

Knowledge Economy Share Price Index vs. S&P 500:

Knowledge Economy Share Index – Sub-Sectors:

Source: S&P Capital IQ

Note: The Equiteq Knowledge Economy Share Price Index is the average of Equiteq’s six segmental indices and is the only published share price index which tracks the listed companies within the knowledge economy. The index is continually revised to consider new listed companies and to remove businesses that are no longer relevant in each quarter.

 

Equiteq advises 4C, a leading Salesforce multi-cloud partner in Europe and the Middle East, on its acquisition by Wipro

London- July 27th, 2020

Equiteq, the leading M&A advisory firm for companies in the Knowledge Economy, is pleased to announce that it has advised 4C, one of the largest Salesforce partners in UK, Europe and the Middle East, on its acquisition by Wipro, a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company.

About the Transaction

On July 23, 2020, Wipro Limited (NYSE: WIT, BSE: 507685, NSE: WIPRO), announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire 4C, one of the largest Salesforce partners in UK, Europe and the Middle East.

Established in 1997 with its headquarters in Mechelen, Belgium, 4C is an independent Salesforce Platinum Partner and one of the leading customer-centric consultancies in Europe and the Middle East. 4C has deep capabilities across multiple Salesforce clouds including Sales, Marketing, Field Services and specializes in transforming Quote-to-Cash processes with Salesforce’s Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) and Billing solutions. 4C has successfully delivered over 1500 projects, for more than 500 customers and is one of EMEA’s most certified Salesforce partners with over 1000 Salesforce certifications.

With over 350 employees based out of local offices in London, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen and Dubai, 4C has a robust Salesforce practice in the UK, France, Benelux, the Nordics and the United Arab Emirates regions. This acquisition significantly strengthens Wipro’s position as a leading provider of Salesforce solutions in these markets. Wipro has a well-established Salesforce business in the Americas, Japan and Australia which was reinforced with the Appirio acquisition in 2016. 4C will be consolidated as part of Wipro’s Salesforce practice, which provides market leading solutions globally around multiple Salesforce clouds and its ecosystem of products.

Jerome Glynn-Smith, Equiteq’s Managing Director in London, said, “We are delighted to have delivered this transaction, setting 4C up for its next phase of expansion. We see an ongoing trend of business combination between innovation boutiques and global majors in consulting, to support the ever-expanding scope of the Salesforce ecosystem.”

“We are excited to have the team at 4C join us. They bring in a rich blend of deep Salesforce expertise across multiple clouds coupled with a team of multi-faceted, multilingual experts with strong regional knowledge. This combination along with Wipro’s reach across the region and industry, will help us become a dominant player in Europe and a leader in Salesforce’s Quote to Cash domain,” said Harish Dwarkanhalli, President, Cloud Enterprise Platforms (CEP), Wipro Limited.

“Wipro shares the same values as we do. Their global presence, robust digital transformation consulting and delivery capabilities and significant investment in the European market, provides an excellent platform for the growth of our employees. We will now leverage this opportunity to take the next leap in building companies for the future for our customers, not just locally but across EMEA,” said Johan Van Genechten, Chief Executive Officer, 4C

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be closed in the quarter ending September 30, 2020.


M&A Market Round Table – 30th July

The 4C-Wipro transaction marks Equiteq’s fourth deal in the Knowledge Economy since the end of June. 

This Thursday at 4pm GMT, Equiteq is hosting the latest in a series of webinars covering the latest on M&A market trends, and what buyers/investors are saying and doing.

The session will also feature feedback of results from our M&A Attitudes survey, and address questions from business owners on how to optimize transaction outcomes in the current market.

You can still complete the 10-minute survey here, and add questions you’d like to be covered. The survey includes an option to register for the webinar.  Or you can directly register here.

Equiteq advises Water Street Partners, a leading joint venture and alliance advisory firm, on its sale to Ankura

July 2020

“It is hard to imagine the Equiteq team of Adam Tindall, Dan Kim, Ravi Dosanjh, and Tom Tartaglia delivering a deal under more difficult circumstances. The COVID pandemic was breaking out as we signed the LOI – Adam and the team steered us through tremendous uncertainty with dogged persistence, extraordinary effort, real creativity, and integrity.” – Geoff Walker, Co-Founder Water Street Partners

Water Street Partners, LLC (“Water Street”), a premier joint venture and alliance advisory firm, announced on July 2, 2020 that it has been acquired by Washington, D.C.-based global business and expert advisory firm, Ankura. 

Water Street Partners was founded in 2008 when McKinsey & Co. colleagues James Bamford and David Ernst, along with Corporate Executive Board alum, Geoff Walker, set out to find a better way to do what they love: advise on unique, highly complex joint ventures and alliances. Water Street soon augmented its leadership team with the vital additions of Gerard Baynham and Peter Daniel to grow the enterprise into the world’s premier joint venture and alliance advisory firm. Water Street’s core service offering is centered on transaction, governance, and portfolio advisory services for joint ventures and alliances. In late 2019, Water Street engaged Equiteq’s M&A team to run, manage, and execute a transaction. Water Street is partnering with Ankura to accelerate its growth organically and continue to build on its leading position in the joint venture and alliances market.

“We are excited to join the Ankura team, and we share a commitment to serving clients and a common culture focused on collaboration and respect,” said James Bamford, a Co-Founder and Managing Director of Water Street. David Ernst, also a Co-Founder and Managing Director of Water Street, added, “We look forward to working together with our new colleagues and helping them grow our combined businesses through a continued commitment to exceeding our clients’ expectations.”

Ankura is a business and expert advisory firm based in Washington, D.C. that is widely recognized as the global leader in providing expert advice across a broad array of complex and highly challenging situations.

“We continue to grow our business by attracting top talent in defined and attractive market segments and fostering a collaborative environment that encourages these leaders to leverage one another’s insights and expertise to deliver high-quality, customized solutions to our clients,” said Kevin Lavin, Chief Executive Officer of Ankura. “Water Street is a proven leader in the joint venture and alliance advisory sector. This combination extends our delivery of expert advice to an expanding global client base facing complex and challenging situations.”

Regarding Equiteq’s role in the transaction, Co-Founder and Managing Director Geoff Walker said, “My Co-Founders and I had been consumers of Equiteq’s research for years before embarking on our sale process. It was clear to us that they were deeply experienced in our space and this became even more apparent when we evaluated Equiteq alongside a number of other, highly respected investment banks. Adam and the team did not disappoint. We are thrilled with the value they helped us capture, and more importantly, the home they found us at Ankura to continue to grow our business, serve our clients, and create opportunities for our team.”     

Adam Tindall, Managing Director of Equiteq’s North America practice, commented, “It has been an honor representing the world’s premier joint venture and alliance advisory firm in this transaction. The Water Street team have done a fantastic job at building a highly specialized and successful practice, and Ankura will be a great home to support the company’s growth. We wish the combined team great success.”   

About Equiteq (www.equiteq.com)

Equiteq is the knowledge economy M&A specialist, advising owners of knowledge-intensive businesses around the world from offices in London, Paris, New York, Singapore, and Sydney. Equiteq helps owners best achieve their value and exit objectives through accelerating equity growth and ultimately realizing that value in a trade or private equity sale.

About Water Street Partners (www.waterstreetpartners.net)

Water Street Partners, which will operate under the Ankura brand name, is the world’s leading advisory firm on joint venture transactions and governance.  Water Street’s transaction work specializes in joint ventures and other non-M&A partnerships, both in new deal formation and restructuring. On governance, Water Street advises clients on corporate and joint venture governance, working with boards, management teams, and individual shareholders.

Water Street is built around giving its clients access to the most experienced advisors, the most comprehensive database of practices and benchmarks, the best proprietary tools, and the widest network of practitioners in the world.  Based in Washington, D.C., Water Street’s work spans a wide variety of industries and geographies. Water Street has negotiated, restructured, or advised many of the largest and most complicated partnerships in the world. Since its founding in 2008, Water Street has advised on 250+ JV transactions valued at $750 billion, and supported the shareholders, boards, or management teams in more than 450 existing joint ventures.  Prior to Water Street, its founders were global co-leads of the joint venture and alliance practice of McKinsey & Co.

About Ankura (www.ankura.com)

Ankura is a global business advisory and expert services firm defined by HOW we solve challenges. Whether a client is facing an immediate business challenge, trying to increase the value of their company or protect against future risks, Ankura designs, develops, and executes tailored solutions by assembling the right combination of expertise. We help clients navigate a wide range of corporate performance and risk management challenges, including those pertaining to compliance, investigations, forensics, technology, turnaround and restructuring, and corporate strategy. We build on this experience with every case, client, and situation, collaborating to create innovative, customized solutions, and strategies designed for today’s ever-changing business environment. This gives our clients unparalleled insight and experience across a wide range of economic, governance, and regulatory challenges. At Ankura, we know that collaboration drives results.

Webinar – achieving a scarcity premium in the post-Covid M&A market

Earlier today, our team joined owners of global Knowledge Economy firms to review the state of sector M&A, and explore the possibility of achieving a premium in the market as Covid-19 wanes.

Take-aways below.

Here’s the recording:

Presenters: Head of North American M&A, Jeff Becker, was joined by two of our London-based MDs, Jerome Glynn-Smith and Paul Dondos.

Key take-aways:

  • A few weeks ago, we made the at-the-time contrarian assertion that despite paralysis, volatility, the unfortunate human impact of C-19, and the general unknown, it might be a good time to think about realizing equity value
  • Day by day, that perspective has seemed less outrageous – we see that the immediate health emergency has passed, tailwinds are stronger, deals are progressing, and buyers are strongly engaged with the deals that are emerging

  • The pandemic has accelerated opportunities for firms providing digital transformation, consulting and technology partner services globally – especially for firms exposed to Financial Services, Government, and Healthcare/Pharma sectors
  • Risk averseness of buyers and sellers in March and April 2020 has created a bottleneck in the market that is currently increasingly being relieved. This will create an influx of transaction opportunities and a revival of deal volumes in Q4’2020
  • We are not seeing valuations impacted, as private transactions will follow the recovery of the public markets and in particular high-quality assets will be in strong demand
  • We have seen strong activity at Equiteq across the Covid period with deals closing at the beginning of the crisis. We have close to 20 ongoing projects at different stages from marketing to definitive documentation negotiations – projects are progressing thanks to a combination of asset resilience, acquirer intent, and creative deal-making
  • Our own pipelines for near-term decisions/kick-offs of sellside mandates have more than doubled since mid-May, with PE firms encouraging us to bring our better clients to market ASAP. Meantime, our buyside activity/engagements are at their highest level of all time
  • We are still not far removed from one of the best deal markets in recent memory, with momentum increasing

  • Owners of firms considering entering M&A should assess whether they are well-positioned to execute a successful transaction in the near-to-mid term, to take advantage of the current window and the continued shortfall of high-quality assets (ahead of a potential wave of supply from owners who deferred a decision)

Equiteq Edge Monthly Update – Potential for a scarcity premium in the Knowledge Economy M&A market?

Since early May, we’ve been cautiously – and increasingly – optimistic about prospects for Knowledge Economy M&A as the C-19 epidemic passes.

Accordingly, we recently ran a webinar “Is now the time to Realize Value?” for those in our community that have continued to perform strongly through C-19 and proven their businesses are highly resilient.

Key take-aways and recording are available on this blog – email info@equiteq.com if you would a copy of the slides.

In the three weeks since this webinar, our team has become even more convinced that an advantageous window for value realization is opening in the market.

Deals are getting done with minimal impact on valuation (unlike in 2008/09), and there are active buyers and investors in the market.  What’s more, the underlying drivers for M&A are intact – there are record levels of private equity ‘dry powder’ on the sidelines, and the strategic rationale for trade buyers to acquire is as strong as ever.

This large pool of investors/buyers is not seeing adequate deal flow of high-quality acquisition targets. Owners of firms that are positioned to be among the early waves of new deals to come to market will meet this pent-up demand and may command a market premium.

Our next webinar, on June 26th, will dive deeper on this them, addressing the question: “Can your business achieve a scarcity premium in the post-Covid M&A market?”

You can register for that webinar here.

In the meantime, here are some highlights from the last month:

  • Knowledge Economy Share Price Index continued its recovery from March lows, in line with broader equity indices. Almost all sub-sectors are not above the value of 1 year ago. It’s also interesting to note that over the longer-term, the Knowledge Economy index is handily outperforming the S&P 500, reflecting the importance of our sector to economic growth, and the increasing application of technology within sector firms
  • Major deals. Profiles highlighted this month are:
    • Cognizant’s acquisition Collaborative Solutions (Workday services)
    • CyberArk’s acquisition of Idaptive (identity security)
Continue reading

M&A boom for Cloud MSPs focused on AWS and Azure

Following on from deals in the space by Accenture, IT Lab, Cognizant and NTT Data in recent weeks, another five cloud deals announced just this week. Just one of the hotspots we’re tracking in the Tech Services space.

(Equiteq’s first Cloud Consulting M&A report was in 2014 – we were excited about 70 globally deals in the whole year, and predicted it as a major trend.)

2nd June – ProArch (Atlanta) Acquires iv4
Read full article here >

3rd June – Netreo Acquires CloudMonix (Azure)
Read full article here > 

3rd June – Navisite acquires Privo  (AWS)
Read full article here > 

3rd June – Deloitte Ireland acquires DNM (next gen AWS)
Read full article here >

3rd June – Effectual acquires Five Talent (DevOps)
Read full article here >

Grow Equity Value Webinar – June 17th

Join Paul Beaumont, our Strategic Advisory Director, for a new webinar “Growing Your Consulting Firm’s Value During Uncertain Times.”

Please use this link to register.

Taking positive action during challenging times to increase value within your business will set you up for success when the industry returns to a stronger climate.

Alongside our friends at Deltek, we’ll be offering advice on growing your client relationships, improving consultant and management loyalty, your market proposition, the quality of your fee income, and more.

Webinar highlights:

– The positive steps you can take now to ensure your firm is prepared for the future

– Discover the areas of your consultancy where you can drive value

– See how technology solutions from firms like Deltek can deliver improvements in key areas of your business

– Don’t just survive, ensure you emerge stronger