Equiteq’s quarterly market updates provide an indicative guide to current M&A market conditions in the consulting industry. However, it should be noted that we typically observe large variations between quarterly M&A volumes, which are not always reflective of longer term trends.
M&A activity was mixed in the second quarter after a strong start to the year. Overall global deal activity in the consulting sector fell by 12% quarter-on-quarter. Deal volumes fell by just 2% on the same quarter last year. The Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index rallied in the second quarter, achieving similar returns to the S&P 500.
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.
One thing you need to assure future owners of when preparing for an exit is leadership capability and stability, as well as the continued positive effect of this on profitability and growth. Ownership succession generally involves management succession and because buyers buy people and great leadership, it is natural for them to want to assess the quality of bench strength, as well as the planning that has gone into ensuring the right people are in the right roles. Your management succession plans throughout the company are an aspect of good governance that you can expect to have evaluated in due diligence. And CEO succession in particular will be critical. It is a key responsibility of the Board and is central to good governance.
Why the lack of planning?
So why do so many companies not prepare well on this front? Often succession planning is mistakenly just not seen as a priority against the immediate operational requirements of getting the company to grow and become profitable.
Sometimes this lack of focus relates to the size of the business. Even in some mid-size organizations, without a big HR function, there are few resources to manage succession compared to the formal talent programs enjoyed by larger organizations. Yet being a smaller organization makes it even more important, as not only is the company very exposed to key talent leaving, but those firms can also have a shallow pool of talent to draw from and are unlikely to have the rotational assignment opportunities that allow people to build their skills and experience.
Sometimes firms feel that planning around succession can be distracting for the individuals and the company and create a political tone in senior management that isn’t helpful.
SNC-Lavalin is acquiring British engineering consultancy Atkins for £2.1bn ($2.6bn). The offer represented a c.35% premium to the undisturbed closing price of Atkins prior to acquisitions talks were announced. As highlighted in our January market update, CH2M had been rumored to be in discussions with Atkins about a possible merger earlier in the year.
The acquisition would boost the Canadian engineering and construction firm’s European revenue as it emerges from a self-imposed freeze on acquisitions in 2015. The deal is expected to expand SNC’s projects outside the energy industry, while oil prices continue to remain significantly below their 2014 levels.
In combination with John Wood Group’s acquisition of Amec for £2.2bn ($2.7bn) last month, the deal represents a consolidation of the UK engineering consulting market, a trend that we anticipated globally in our latest Engineering M&A Report.
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.
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.
The New Year commenced with some notable deal activity and M&A news across all five of the consulting segments that we track. The share prices of many listed consultants that form part of our Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index also rose on the back of strong market sentiment and earnings announcements.
WS Atkins and CH2M $4bn merger talks
The Times reported that British engineering and design consulting firm, WS Atkins Plc (ATKW.L) and US-based CH2M are in merger talks. Atkins had said last year that plans by the new U.S. administration and U.K. government to increase infrastructure spending would benefit the company. Atkins had been using M&A to selectively increase its geographic footprint and capabilities, in a segment that is considered to be consolidating as players look to reduce overheads and increase global market share.