Consulting sector M&A deals peak amid global turbulence

BY Fraser Tennant

Mergers & acquisitions (M&A) activity in the consulting sector has reached a nine-year high (up 1 percent) despite the impact of ongoing geopolitical turbulence, according to Equiteq’s ‘Global Consulting Mergers & Acquisitions Report 2017’. 

Now in its 10th year, the Equiteq report provides data such as deal sizes and structures, valuation multiples, equity share price performance, regional activity and strategic and private equity buyer trends. For example, it reveals that 44 percent of all consulting sector deals took place in North America (which enjoyed the highest M&A value), although Europe, with 38 percent of deals, and Asia-Pacific, with 9 percent, enjoyed stronger M&A growth. The report also notes that deal activity was particularly robust in the UK, with the number of completed transactions increasing by 20 percent over the course of the year.

Additional findings include: (i) the top consulting segments for deal activity were the rapidly evolving management consulting, IT services and media segments, with management consulting seeing a 2 percent growth in deal volumes and a 32 percent increase in the share-price index; and (ii) traditional boundaries between consulting segments continue to blur, leading to a strong convergence at the intersection of management consulting, media & marketing and technology.

Furthermore, highlighting the global nature of M&A activity in the consulting sector, the report confirms that despite some major political upheavals, cross-border deal activity remained strong – accounting for 28 percent of all deal volumes (up 27 percent from the year before).

“We are seeing unprecedented diversification amongst acquirers of knowledge-led businesses such as management consultants, media agencies, engineering consultants and HR consulting,” said David Jorgenson, chief executive of Equiteq. “As a result this is driving convergence between consulting sectors and creating hybrid business models with creative, technology consulting and managed services. This convergence trend – driven by digital disruption, changing client demands and the search for growth – is blurring traditional boundaries.”

Commenting on the prospects for the consulting sector in the second half of 2017 and beyond, Mr Jorgenson concluded: “Having already seen high-profile deals across segments of the consulting market, as well as strong deal activity amongst high-profile PE investors, we expect that this robust demand for M&A will continue over the next twelve months.”

Report: Global Consulting M&A Report

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