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

Is now the time to Realize Value? Key take-aways from Equiteq’s latest webinar

Last week, Equiteq held a webinar ‘Does your firm meet the criteria to realize value now?’, attended by business owners from all sectors of the knowledge economy.

The webinar was hosted by David Jorgenson, our CEO; Jerome Glynn Smith, a Managing Director in our M&A practice, and Paul Dondos who runs our origination and buyside efforts globally. We expanded on the rationale for why C-19 may create a unique window to realize equity value, covering the latest on what buyers and sellers are saying and doing, and providing a framework to assess whether your firm has the characteristics to take advantage.

The recording and some key take-aways below. You can contact us directly on info@equiteq.com if you’d like a copy of the materials, or would like to talk through the details and how they relate to your business

Some key take-aways:

  • Clearly C-19 has caused disruptions, but some market strength has developed and in certain circumstances the current market is favourable for sellers to achieve very attractive deals 
  • Liquidity is at an all-time high with financial investors in the private markets
  • Evolving competitive landscapes (and the requirement to stay relevant to B2B and B2C customers) will drive growth plans for strategic buyers that systematically involve M&A – Equiteq has close to 20 projects ongoing at the moment with these drivers  at the core of strategic interest 
  • The pandemic has provided a strong test of resilience, which will drive demand for well-performing business
  • Market sentiment will improve as visibility increases, fast
  • There is already a scarcity of sellers vs. buyers in the market, in particular for assets of quality. Businesses that are pre-prepared to engage with investors and acquirers will benefit  
  • We are seeing some changes in the way transactions are progressing towards closure, including:
    • Exceptional treatment of FY20 in the structuring of earn-outs 
    • COVID normalisations  
    • Creative dealmaking to get things across the line  
  • Time may not be on your side to conclude a deal – with potential risks including removal of favourable tax treatment for entrepreneurs, second spike of the virus, geopolitical uncertainty, shareholder misalignment 

Equiteq Edge Monthly Update – Knowledge Economy Share Price Index Recovers Most of Covid-19 Losses

As you’re all deeply aware, Covid-19 has impacted markets, supply chains, technologies and talent across the Knowledge Economy.

In line with our mission to help owners and sector firms to grow, acquire and realize equity value, over the last month Equiteq has been providing resources to help navigate these difficult times, including:

  • Our webinar “Protecting your equity value during the downturn”, the recording of which is available here: https://youtu.be/nj9i2CSRGkk  (email info@equiteq.com if you would a copy of the slides and our associated 100 Tips book)
  • Detailed sub-sector reports describing Covid-19 impacts on M&A in management consulting, technology services & outsourcing, HCM, engineering services, and software & SaaS. (Email us for a copy of the report for your industry)

We also know from talking to clients that many firms are continuing to perform strongly through C-19, and proving highly resilient.

While M&A markets have been disrupted, they have not shut down. In fact, for some firms, COVID-19 could create a unique window to realize equity value. Therefore, our next webinar will aim to help owners of resilient firms decide whether to consider M&A now.  You can register for that webinar here:


In the meantime, here are some highlights from April and early May:

  • Knowledge Economy Share Price Index recovered from March lows, in line with broader equity indices. The index is now above the value of 1 year ago, although some sub-sectors are still down.
  • Major deals. Profiles highlighted are Accenture’s acquisitions of Gekko and Yesler; WhiteSky Labs being bought by CapGemini Australia; and Investcorp Technology Partners acquisition of German cybersecurity software solutions company Avira.

Knowledge Economy Share Price Index:

Note: The Equiteq Knowledge Economy Share Price Index is the weighted 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 newly listed companies and to remove businesses that are no longer relevant in each quarter.

Accenture acquires Gekko to strengthen its cloud innovation.

Target: Gekko is a Paris-based Amazon Web Services (AWS) business, supporting enterprise migrations and cloud development in end-to-end Intelligent Cloud & Infrastructure services.

Buyer: Accenture, global consulting and technology services, reinforcing its AWS global community of more than 8,000 trained professionals, with over 20 AWS competencies and service delivery designations.

Deal insight: Accenture AWS Business Group (AABG) within Accenture Technology in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands will reinforce its ability to innovate and transform clients’ businesses in line with evolving customer expectations.  With cloud, AI, and DevOps skills more clients will benefit from on-shore AWS fully automated cloud operations and FinOps capabilities.  Gekko’s delivery center, with over 100 trained professionals is located in the west of France.

The acquisition will enhance Accenture’s position as one of the leading providers of AWS expertise and cloud transformation in the French market and help more organizations to leverage their journey to the cloud, accelerating their digital transformations, growing their businesses and improving customer experiences.

Despite exceeding $4bn in annual revenue, ServiceNow continues to grow at a stellar rate as it broadens its software solutions. KPMG is a Platinum ServiceNow Partner and was named Americas Partner of the Year 2019 and Americas Transformation Partner of the Year 2020. KPMG is undertaking a multi-year investment program focused on combining KPMG’s deep industry expertise with expertise in technology ecosystems like ServiceNow, as well as Workday, Salesforce, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Alibaba Cloud.

Accenture Buys B2B Marketing Services Agency Yesler

Target: Yesler provides business-to-business (B2B) marketing services.

Buyer: Accenture provides B2B marketing services worldwide.

Deal insight: Accenture’s acquisition of Yesler continues to strengthen and scale the company’s B2B marketing services, adding depth in offerings such as account-based marketing, customer advocacy, sales enablement, and marketing automation. With more than 400 people globally, Yesler is headquartered in Seattle and has additional offices in Portland, Philadelphia, London, Toronto, and Singapore. Post-transaction, Yesler will be integrated into Accenture Interactive and further enhance the company’s complete set of B2B services, ranging from strategy and creative to ongoing management and support. 

Accenture’s acquisition of Yesler highlights the continued convergence between traditional creative agencies and management consultancies.  As brands continue to adapt their marketing and consumer engagement models, it is likely that agency and consultancy offerings will continue to merge and brands will continue to seek out firms that offer a data-heavy, analytics approach to marketing.

Capgemini Australia acquires Mulesoft Partner WhiteSky Labs.

Target: WhiteSky Labs is a leading Australian privately owned Mulesoft Practice.

Buyer: Capgemini is a global consulting firm listed on the Paris stock exchange.

Deal insight: Multinational consulting firm Capgemini has acquired Sydney-headquartered MuleSoft partner WhiteSky Labs for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition expands the consulting giant’s digital transformation capabilities in Asia Pacific while also adding more than 150 staff across Australia, Singapore and the Philippines. Whitesky Labs is one of the largest independent MuleSoft full-service consultancies in the region.

Since being acquired by Salesforce in March 2018, MuleSoft has experienced exceptional growth. For the past several years Capgemini had been quiet on the acquisition front in Australia, but this acquisition may mark the beginning of more deal activity from them.

Investcorp Technology Partners acquires German cybersecurity software solutions company Avira for $180m.

Target: Avira is a leading antivirus and other cybersecurity software solutions business, headquartered in Germany.

Buyer: Investcorp is a Bahrain-headquartered global manager of alternative investment products. Investcorp Technology Partners is a direct private investment arm of Investcorp for European technology companies.

Deal insight: Founded in 1986 by Tjark Auerbach, Avira has grown without external funding to be a well-known brand with a strong position in its markets. The company is particularly well known for its anti-virus suite of products, licensed into the European and Asian OEMs and Consumer markets as own-branded as well as white-label. This acquisition will support the business growth, expansion into new geographies, and development of its comprehensive cybersecurity offering in areas such as anti-malware, threat intelligence, identify management and IoT.

The transaction, which remains subject to anti-trust approval, values Avira at $180m and brings in Investcorp Technology Partners as majority shareholders, with Tjark Auerbach remaining a significant shareholder.

Are you a member of Equiteq Edge? It’s full of content to help owners of knowledge-intensive companies prepare for sale and sell their businesses. Register here to gain full access.

March 2020: Knowledge Economy M&A and Equity Market Update

  • Major deals profiled include KPMG’s acquisition of Wirefire Creative, Capgemini’s purchase of Advectas, and McKinsey’s acquisition of Orpheus.
  • The Equiteq Knowledge Economy Share Price Index dipped with broader equity indices over the month.

KPMG Canada acquires ServiceNow Partner Wirefire Creative.

Target: Wirefire Creative is the ServiceNow practice of the Canadian technology consultancy Wirefire.
Buyer: KPMG is a global accounting and business advisory firm.

Deal insight:
The deal will add 20 Wirefire professionals to KPMG Canada’s IT advisory team. The team will add strategically important capabilities in ServiceNow consulting, which are enabling many of KPMG’s blue-chip clients’ digital transformations. Wirefire’s Creative co-founder and CEO Karsten Hiemstra will join KPMG as a partner in the firm’s IT Advisory practice and lead its ServiceNow practice in Western Canada.

Despite exceeding $4bn in annual revenue, ServiceNow continues to grow at a stellar rate as it broadens its software solutions. KPMG is a Platinum ServiceNow Partner and was named Americas Partner of the Year 2019 and Americas Transformation Partner of the Year 2020. KPMG is undertaking a multi-year investment program focused on combining KPMG’s deep industry expertise with expertise in technology ecosystems like ServiceNow, as well as Workday, Salesforce, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Alibaba Cloud.

Capgemini acquires Advectas to bolster its business intelligence and data analytics services.

Target: Advectas is a Sweden-headquartered business intelligence and data science company.
Buyer: Capgemini is a France-headquartered technology and digital transformation consulting firm.

Deal insight:
Capgemini’s acquisition of Advectas will add a team of over 200 people with business intelligence and data analytics services capabilities. Advectas works across multiple industry sectors and providers business intelligence solutions across the data value chain. This includes data management and data science services, data analytics consulting, planning and simulation.

The purchase of Advectas comes shortly after Capgemini purchased Purpose, a 100-person social impact firm based in the US. It also follows Capgemini’s milestone purchase of Altran last year. Capgemini’s deal flow in the consulting space is enabling the growth of Capgemini Invent, which combines the legacy Capgemini Consulting business with expertise in technology and data science. The new brand merged prior notable digital acquisitions including the purchase of digital consulting firm LiquidHub, innovation consulting firm Fahrenheit 212, as well as creative design agencies Idean, Adaptive Lab and Backelite. The growth of Capgemini Invent is better positioning Capgemini against growing digital transformation competitors like Accenture, Cognizant and the Indian IT services players.

McKinsey purchases Orpheus, building its digital procurement and spend intelligence capabilities.

Target: Orpheus, a Germany-headquartered developer of software that helps organizations optimize their external expenditure by analysing purchasing data streams.
Buyer: McKinsey is a US-headquartered global management consulting firm.

Deal insight:
McKinsey’s purchase of Orpheus will enable a new offering to McKinsey’s clients called Spend Intelligence by McKinsey. The service will provide spend transparency, spend and cost analytics, as well as value-capture management. Spend Intelligence combines Orpheus’ advanced platform technology with McKinsey’s industry expertise and digital procurement services. Orpheus had previously received investment from KfW Group, Senovo and Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners.

McKinsey has historically focused on organic growth, while making selective acquisitions in strategically important spaces. Strategic sectors have included digital consulting and data analytics, which are also market segments with acute talent shortages. McKinsey’s acquisitions are typically preceded by a partnership with a target company, which can enable the testing of synergies before agreeing a deal.

Continue reading

Financial Technologies and Services Industry Bulletin

Equiteq reviewed M&A and investment trends in the increasingly disrupted financial technologies and services industry.

A broad range of technological innovations have transformed the financial services industry in the last five years. Alternative lending platforms, cryptocurrencies, robo-advisers and AI technology as well as other solutions have changed the landscape of the market. According to PwC’s Financial Services Technology 2020 and Beyond, 81% of banking CEOs are concerned about the speed of technological change. Traditional financial services players view the rise of fintech and challenger banks as a threat to their market share.

Expansion of Financial Technology and Services

From banking to payments, fintech has managed to dramatically transform the financial services industry. Customer empowerment initiatives continue to be an overarching theme in the market giving customers access to previously restricted assets and services, while emerging innovations have allowed financial institutions to access new data sets. The urge for companies to implement new fintech technologies has spread globally – adoption in 2019 grew almost four times more than in 2015, according to EY’s Global FinTech Adoption Index 2019.

Through the innovation of financial technology and services, Equiteq has acknowledged the following outcomes:

Continue reading