European Private Equity-backed Acquisitions Subdued in First Quarter

Acquisitions by private equity (PE)-backed companies in Europe, aka ‘buy and build activity’, were subdued in the first quarter of 2013 according to data from Silverfleet Capital and mergermarket.

Silverfleet, a London-based private equity firm, said when releasing its ‘European Buy & Build Monitor’ for Q113 that the modest rebound seen in Q412 proved to be short lived as activity levels in the latest quarter dropped back significantly, registering the third lowest quarter in the past five years.

The firm classifies ‘buy to build’ as bolt-on acquisitions made to achieve strong organic growth and reports that the volume of buy and build activity in Europe in Q113 was much weaker than in previous quarters, with only 56 add-ons completed in the quarter compared with 78 add-ons in Q112 and an average for 2012 of 72 add-ons per quarter.

The average disclosed value of add-ons in the quarter was more stable at £51m, against £52m in Q4 2012 and slightly above the average for 2012 of £46m, but this was based on a small sample size as only 11 deals with disclosed values were completed in Q1 2013. 

“The appetite of PE-backed European companies to complete add-on acquisitions in certain parts of Europe, most notably in France, was very weak in Q113,” said Neil MacDougall, managing partner of Silverfleet. “In contrast the number of add-ons of targets outside of Europe was in line with last year’s level of activity.”

“As with the Q412, the largest add-on in the quarter for which a price was disclosed was in the Nordic region. This was the Danish krone (DKK) 2bn acquisition of ISS’s pest control operations in 12 countries, by EQT-backed Anticimex AB. This was one of 10 add-ons of a target based in the Nordic region which were announced in the quarter contributing to a robust level of activity in that part of Europe.

“However for the continent as a whole, European mid-market M&A and the number of buyouts done in Europe were both at subdued levels in Q113 and the same effect can clearly be seen in buy and build activity. This data suggests that Europeans do not yet see an end to the continent’s sovereign debt and banking problems and the knock-on impact they are having on gross domestic product (GDP) growth.”

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