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)

July 2017: Consulting M&A Update

By Ramone Param, Associate Director, Equiteq

DXC Technology acquires Microsoft Dynamics 365 specialist Tribridge

DXC Technology made its first acquisition after forming in April following the merger of CSC and the Enterprise Services unit of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The technology giant acquired 740-person Microsoft Dynamics 365 consulting firm Tribridge and its managed cloud business Concerto Cloud Services.  The deal is expected to enhance the buyer’s consulting offerings focused on clients in health care, government, consumer packaged goods, and professional services.

Tribridge is one of the largest independent integrators of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and is a six-time winner of Dynamics 365 Worldwide and U.S. Partner of the Year. Tribridge will become part of DXC Eclipse, an IT application consulting business acquired by the business in October 2015 for c.$300m.

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Due diligence preparation is vital – here’s what to expect and the key areas of investigation

By Gabriela Silvestris, Director, Equiteq

A no-surprises and smooth due diligence (DD) process underpins every successful deal, closed on the terms agreed before exclusivity. Ideally confirmatory in nature rather than a voyage of discovery, DD provides comfort to the potential acquirer and helps the vendor agree a better set of share purchase agreement warranties and indemnities. On the flip side, material surprises can lead to adverse re-negotiations and a drawn-out process can be distracting and lead to financial under performance.

There is a golden rule in M&A: issues will fill the available time. Being well prepared and due diligence ready is key to driving a fast completion process, protecting value and shoring up buyers’ confidence.

In some jurisdictions, commissioning vendor due diligence is quite common. It enables sellers to manage the timetable, better prepare for buyer due diligence and by disclosing reports to the final shortlisted parties, mitigates issues while there is competitive tension in the sale process. As ever, the benefits need to be weighed against the costs.

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June 2017: Consulting M&A Update

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By Ramone Param, Associate Director, Equiteq

Accenture acquires Salesforce specialist Phase One

Accenture agreed to acquire Phase One Consulting Group, a Virginia-based digital transformation specialist for the federal market with strong capabilities in Salesforce cloud solutions. Phase One will join Accenture Federal Services upon completion of the deal.

Phase One offers secure cloud implementation and consulting services to federal agencies for projects across various government sectors. The business had backing from RLJ Equity Partners, who acquired Phase One in early 2015. The company also received an undisclosed amount of development capital from Salesforce Ventures in September of last year.

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April 2017: Consulting M&A Update

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

SNC-Lavalin acquires Atkins

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.

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March 2017: Consulting M&A Update

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

Oracle reportedly exploring Accenture acquisition bid

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.

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January 2017: Consulting Market Update

Consulting M&A Activity and Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index Performance

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

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.

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Thinking about expanding internationally? Four common misconceptions every business owner should know the truth about

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By Adam Blatchford, Associate, Equiteq

For many business owners, establishing a strong local presence is only the first step on their road to success. Once they’ve achieved this, they want to continue growing the value of their firms, and many are tempted by the thought of expanding geographically beyond their home markets. It is a seductive idea littered with potential pitfalls that could not only jeopardize the business’s financial position but also significantly erode equity value.

In this blog, we look at how you, as a consulting firm owner, can make smart decisions around ‘if’ and ‘how’ to scale your business abroad, to ensure you are protecting and building your company’s value rather than hindering the attractiveness of the company to future buyers.

We’ve compiled some of the most common reasons business owners give for expanding internationally, and the potential risks that those reasons might be hiding.

1. We have exhausted our home market

There is a significant opportunity cost to international expansion; while it can provide opportunities to grow, it is usually far easier to grow in your current market where you already have relationships and credentials. So it should only be attempted if you have truly saturated your market:

  • Be absolutely certain that other factors are not hindering growth

i. Check that your proposition correctly resonates with your client’s issues
ii. Examine if you are competing with internal capacity
iii. Assess your account management to ensure you maximize your current clients
iv. Confirm that your sales focus is on the right type of client

If these issues are the true cause, rather than a saturated domestic market, then they will hinder your progress in the new market too.

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Robust demand for M&A by corporates and private equity, and strong share price performance in the fourth quarter.

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By  Ramone Param, Associate Director – Market Insights & Buyer Coverage, Equiteq

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Global M&A activity across the Knowledge-Intensive Services sector, as tracked by the Equiteq Consulting M&A Index, remained strong in the final quarter of 2016. Deal volumes were broadly flat in comparison to a robust prior quarter and rose in comparison to the same quarter last year. The conclusion of the U.S. presidential race has been followed by sharp rises in investor confidence and the Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index has rallied strongly throughout most of November and December, outperforming both the S&P 500 and FTSE 100. The overall Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index is now rallying at an all-time high.

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As we anticipated, deal activity in the last quarter remained buoyant in the IT services sector. Appirio, was acquired by Wipro for $500m, positioning the buyer as the leading Indian technology services player in the cloud consulting space. Appirio was considered a prized acquisition opportunity amongst a range of potential suitors after a wave of deals left Appirio as one of the largest independent cloud consulting specialists remaining in the market.

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December 2016: Consulting Market Update

Consulting M&A Activity and Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index Performance

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By Ramone Param, Market Insights & Buyer Coverage Associate, Equiteq.

2016 ended with a number of high-profile deals being signed across all five of our knowledge-intensive services segments. The share prices of many listed consultants that form part of our Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index also reached record highs. This continued strong investor confidence in the sector is also observed across other industries as reflected by the strong gains of the S&P 500 and Dow Jones, as well as the FTSE 100 which reached an all-time high by year end.

december-update-blog-image-1The largest deal to be announced in December was KKR & Co.’s acquisition of cyber-security specialist, Optiv Security, from The Blackstone Group. The deal followed Blackstone’s filing for an initial public offering of Optiv last month. The sale of the business follows a number of recent high-profile and lucrative private equity exits of portfolio companies operating in the consulting sector, including the sale of Pactera by Blackstone and the sale of AlixPartners by CVC Capital Partners. We expect that these successful landmark sales will support strong appetite from financial buyers investing in the sector in the New Year.

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