May 2017: Consulting M&A Update

By Ramone Param, Associate Director, Equiteq.

FIS sells majority stake in Capco to private equity

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice announced their acquisition of a 60% majority stake in Capco from FIS, a leader in financial services technology. Capco is the public brand for FIS’ management consulting business and specializes in business, digital and technology consulting services for the financial services industry. FIS acquired Capco for $292m in 2010 and will receive net cash proceeds of $477m from the sale, while retaining a 40% stake in the business.

New Mountain acquires OneDigital Health and Benefits

OneDigital, one of the top buyers that we identified in the HR space, announced that it has been acquired in an all-cash deal by private equity investor New Mountain Capital. New Mountain is acquiring a majority ownership in the business from Fidelity National Financial Ventures for a reported $560m. The investment will be aimed at providing strategic guidance and industry expertise, while helping drive OneDigital’s continued growth.

OneDigital is the United States’ largest provider of employee benefits services and offers employers a combination of strategic advisory, analytics, compliance support, HR capital management tools and comprehensive insurance offerings. The business serves 35,000 companies and manages c.$4 billion in premiums.

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The highest price for your consulting business may well come from outside your core industry

The most prolific acquirers of knowledge-led businesses are undergoing unprecedented diversification and convergence across adjacent consulting segments and sectors. At the same time, digital transformation is driving hybrid business models with consulting, technology and managed service revenue. This change is fuelling high levels of M&A activity from trade and private equity investors, which we review in our 2017 M&A report. For owners considering selling their business, an appreciation of these trends is critical to uncovering the synergistic buyers that may offer the highest value.

Convergence between consulting offerings

Global consulting clients are increasingly looking to their advisors for best-in-class, end-to-end consulting solutions. These trends are driving established consulting buyers to use M&A to enter new geographies and acquire complementary capabilities.

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International firms tap into Asia-Pacific markets with strategic acquisitions of specialist firms

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.

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Equiteq’s tenth annual review of the global consulting M&A market highlights that deal activity has reached a nine-year high

By Ramone Param, Associate Director, Market Intelligence & Buyer Coverage, Equiteq.

The Equiteq Global Consulting M&A report is the most comprehensive publicly available study of the knowledge-intensive services industry.

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.

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H1-B visa reforms could drive an acquisition spree from Indian IT Services firms

By Ramone Param, Associate Director, Market Intelligence & Buyer Coverage, Equiteq.

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.

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Lift & Shift: following the rise to cloud migration

For every consultant who spotted the cloud opportunity and raced to embrace it, there will be another who is still not quite fully convinced.

Clients have spent hundreds of thousands – or even millions – on their on-premise solutions, they are comfortable with their data centres and have established long-term relationships with their maintenance engineers. They’re not ready to give all that up in one go. And, as long they resist a wholesale move to cloud, there’s a role for IT consultants and specialists to offer support for these traditional models.

But the pace of change is quickening; clients have tuned in to piecemeal migration and with software vendor innovation being cloud-focused, the largest traditional consulting firms have seen the writing on the wall, turning to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as the only credible way of rapidly building their cloud capability.

Shaun Fröhlich is UK managing partner of Incredibleresults, and works with leadership teams to accelerate value growth.

“We are all on a spectrum,” he says. “Many believe the world is changing because of the cloud and it is spurring them on to cash in their chips on their existing business, but there is an almost equal number that remain neutral and see it as an evolution, not reason to trigger a capital event.”

Despite the cloud offering faster, less disruptive deployment and easier global enablement – while cyber-security concerns have increasingly been addressed – migration to the cloud isn’t yet wholesale for most organizations.

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The Australian M&A market outlook

A recent report from Source Global Research suggests Australia has overtaken the US and UK as the second most attractive consulting market in the world – only behind the DACH market (Germany, Austria and Switzerland).

International firms see the Australian economy as a resilient market – which is perhaps no surprise given it’s enjoyed 25 years of consecutive growth – and a strategic outpost to further their goals in Asia. According to the report, the use of consulting services and advisors in the country is now at a level that will garner considerable interests from international businesses and, we believe, act as a catalyst for a significant increase in M&A activity in the coming months.

What’s driving demand for professional services consultants?

The professional services (PS) sector is an important contributor to the Australian economy, employing more than 2.2 million people. Growth in the industry has been driven by demand from complex businesses, which rely on consultants to introduce new innovative processes to improve their products or services and simplify the way they operate.

This trend is reflected in the increased demand for the output of highly skilled labor, the growing use of outsourcing, and a range of technological advancements.

In the last decade or so, Australia has seen sectors such as financial services (FS), mining and engineering grow exponentially, which has driven demand for specialist skills and personnel, creating a high-value and service-based economy.

Geoff Stalley, Partner at Deloitte Australia, said: “Consultants and advisors are in huge demand in Australia at the moment. For instance, the energy and mining sector are increasingly relying on expert consultants to help them build more efficient models and operational technologies to manage risks and significant operating costs.”

And, as technological developments continue to increase the need for a skilled workforce, we can expect fixed wage levels to remain high, attracting even more consultants.

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