Buy & build activity in Europe weak due to political uncertainty

14. Novem­ber 2018

Munich, London, Paris — Euro­pean buy & build acti­vity in the first half of 2018 fell by 12% compared to the same period last year. The reason for this is presu­ma­bly concerns about the impen­ding Brexit, which are dampe­ning the other­wise buoyant mood on the markets in the UK and Ireland. This is shown by the current Euro­pean Buy & Build Moni­tor of the private equity firm Silver­fleet Capi­tal.

The Buy & Build Moni­tor measu­res global add-on acti­vity by Euro­­pean-based and private equity-finan­­ced compa­nies; for the first half of 2018, it preli­mi­na­rily iden­ti­fies 287 acqui­si­ti­ons compared to 327 in the same period last year. The total value of deals fell from €5.8 billion in the first half of 2017 to €4.65 billion in the first half of 2018.

In the first half of 2018, only eight acqui­si­ti­ons with a tran­sac­tion value of more than £60 million or €70 million were disc­lo­sed. The number thus fell signi­fi­cantly compared with the same period last year, when 21 acqui­si­ti­ons were published. — The largest purchase of the half was the acqui­si­tion of the conve­ni­ence stores of The Kroger Co. EG Group, backed by TDR Capi­tal, acqui­red them for $2.15 billion.

Geogra­phic trends
There were sharp decli­nes in the UK, Ireland and Scan­di­na­via: The number of deals in the UK and Ireland fell from 67 in the first half of 2017 to 50; this deve­lo­p­ment is presu­ma­bly due to the impen­ding Brexit, which is discou­ra­ging British compa­nies from making acqui­si­ti­ons in their own coun­try. The number of acqui­si­ti­ons made by non-UK compa­nies in the King­dom remained constant.

In Scan­di­na­via, only 41 acqui­si­ti­ons were comple­ted in the first half of 2018, compared to 74 comple­ted in the prior-year period. Sweden proved to be parti­cu­larly active with 26 acqui­si­ti­ons. Howe­ver, this was offset by low acti­vity in Denmark and Norway, which repor­ted only eight acqui­si­ti­ons in total. In Norway, this is proba­bly due to low M&A acti­vity in offshore oil and gas production.

The largest increase in Buy & Build was achie­ved in the DACH region. With 38 acqui­si­ti­ons in the first half of 2018, the number increased by 31% compared to 29 acqui­si­ti­ons in the same period last year. Thus, acti­vity conti­nues to reco­ver and reached the highest level compared to previous years.

France, the Bene­lux count­ries and Italy saw their perfor­mance dete­rio­rate, in line with the trend of gene­rally weaker acti­vity in the first half of 2018. Data for Spain & Portu­gal, Central & Eastern Europe, and Southe­as­tern Europe were in line with those for the first half of 2017.

Non-Euro­­pean add-on acti­vity accoun­ted for 12% of total add-on volume, a simi­lar ratio to previous years. Howe­ver, there was a nota­ble decrease in the number of acqui­si­ti­ons in North America compared to previous years. Data for other regi­ons are consis­tent with last year’s data.

There was an add-on in Silver­fleet Capital’s port­fo­lio in the first half of 2018: micro­G­LEIT, a niche supplier of lubri­cants based in Germany, was acqui­red by a majo­rity stake from Silver­fleet Capital’s port­fo­lio company Conven­tya, a French specia­list in specialty chemi­cals for surface finis­hing. This tran­sac­tion marks Coventya’s third acqui­si­tion since Silver­fleet joined the company in May 2016.

“After peaking last year, buy-&-build acti­vity was signi­fi­cantly subdued in the first half of this year, despite contin­ued favorable econo­mic condi­ti­ons,” said Neil MacDou­gall, mana­ging part­ner at Silver­fleet Capi­tal. “We believe that poli­tics is at least partly the reason for this trend. In the U.K. and Ireland, the sharp decline in natio­nal acqui­si­ti­ons can be explai­ned as a precau­tio­nary measure in the wake of the impen­ding Brexit. The decline in buy-&-build acti­vity by Euro­pean compa­nies in North America may be due to the intro­duc­tion of export tariffs. Equally, howe­ver, it could be that U.S.-based buyers are more deter­mi­ned than Europeans.”

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(1) Metho­do­logy
The infor­ma­tion used in the Silver­fleet Buy & Build Moni­tor is prepared by Merger­mar­ket. They exclu­si­vely include follow-on acqui­si­ti­ons of compa­nies where more than 30% of the equity is held by a private equity fund and where the plat­form company is based in Europe.

The value of the acqui­si­ti­ons must exceed €5 million or the target company must have sales of at least €10 million to be included in the ranking. One chall­enge here is always that data from the most recent quar­ter is often not complete. Smal­ler acqui­si­ti­ons in parti­cu­lar are not yet fully covered, and details may only become known after our analy­sis has been comple­ted. We ther­e­fore add a pro forma premium of 14% to the figu­res for the first half of 2018 in order to make trend state­ments. Our analy­sis for the second half of 2017 indi­ca­tes that this is in line with the adjus­t­ment that would have been requi­red to accu­ra­tely esti­mate add-on acti­vity in the first half of the year.

Apply­ing the metho­do­logy descri­bed above, we have applied a pro forma mark-up of 35 tran­sac­tions to the figu­res for the first half of 2018. Howe­ver, it is hardly possi­ble to draw detailed conclu­si­ons such as regio­nal break­downs from the pro forma figu­res. Ther­e­fore, we deci­ded against it.

About Silver­fleet Capital
Silver­fleet Capi­tal has been active as a private equity inves­tor in the Euro­pean mid-market for more than 30 years and curr­ently mana­ges around €1.2 billion with its 29-strong invest­ment team in Munich, London, Paris, Stock­holm and Amsterdam.

Eight invest­ments have alre­ady been made from the second inde­pen­dent fund closed in 2015 with a volume of 870 million euros: The Masai Clot­hing Company, a women’s fashion whole­sa­ler and retailer head­quar­te­red in Denmark; Coven­tya, a French deve­lo­per of specialty chemi­cals; Sigma Compon­ents, a British manu­fac­tu­rer of precis­ion compon­ents for civil avia­tion; Life­time Trai­ning, a British provi­der of trai­ning programs; Pumpen­fa­brik Wangen, a manu­fac­tu­rer of specialty pumps based in Germany; Riviera Travel, a British opera­tor of escor­ted group tours and crui­ses; 7days, a West­pha­lian supplier of medi­cal work­wear; and Prefere Resins, a leading phen­o­lic and amino resin manu­fac­tu­rer in Europe.

Silver­fleet achie­ves value growth through its “buy to build” invest­ment stra­tegy. As part of this stra­tegy, Silver­fleet is acce­le­ra­ting the growth of its subsi­dia­ries by inves­t­ing in new products, produc­tion capa­city and employees, instal­ling successful retail formats or making follow-up acqui­si­ti­ons. Since 2004, Silver­fleet Capi­tal has inves­ted €1.9 billion in 28 companies.

Silver­fleet specia­li­zes in four key indus­tries: Busi­ness and Finan­cial Services, Health­care, Manu­fac­tu­ring, and Retail and Consu­mer Goods. Since 2004, the private equity inves­tor has inves­ted 33 percent of its assets in compa­nies head­quar­te­red in the DACH region, 31 percent in the UK and Ireland, 19 percent in Scan­di­na­via and 17 percent mainly in France and the Bene­lux count­ries (1).

Silver­fleet Capi­tal has a solid invest­ment track record. Most recently, Silver­fleet sold Ipes, a leading provi­der of outsour­cing services to Euro­pean private equity firms (invest­ment multi­ple 3.8x); CCC, one of the leading BPO services provi­ders in Europe, and Cimbria, a Danish manu­fac­tu­rer of agri­cul­tu­ral equip­ment (2); Kalle, a German manu­fac­tu­rer of arti­fi­cial sausage skins (invest­ment multi­ple 3.5x); OFFICE, a British shoe retailer (invest­ment multi­ple 3.4x); and Aesica, a leading phar­maceu­ti­cal CDMO company (invest­ment multi­ple 3.3x).

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