Marketing and media M&A “resilient” in Q3 2018 despite Brexit uncertainty, says new report

BY Fraser Tennant

Despite the ongoing uncertainty induced by Brexit, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the marketing and media sectors has been “resilient” in Q3 2018, according to a report published this week by Kingston Smith.

In its ‘Mergers and acquisitions in the marketing and media sectors – Q3 2018’, the firm notes that 70 deals took place in the quarter, up from 60 in Q2 and keeping pace with the 73 recorded in Q1 2018.

Among the high-profile transactions were WPP acquiring Hirshorn-Zukerman Design Group,  Emark, Gorilla Group and 2Sale International, the acquisition of Digital Mind, Whitespace and Amicus Digital by Dentsu, and the deals by Next 15 to acquire Technical Associates Group and Viga.

“Q3 is testament to the enduring hunger of acquirers, with the deal announcements possibly lagging behind the appetite,” states the report. “Many mid-market buyers lack sufficient bandwidth to assess all the opportunities available to them and this is holding back deal completions. The quarterly uptick is welcome but the jury is out as to whether activity will continue at this level, as liquidity tends to dry up quickly once shocks impact on the system – meaning businesses may be rushing deals through before any material change in the external backdrop.”

Furthermore, digital businesses remain the most sought-after in the marketing services sector, accounting for nearly half of deals in this area (57 percent). In addition, media-tech continues to gain pace, accounting for almost a quarter of all deals (23 percent) in Q3 2018. Acquisitions in the media-tech space have been undertaken by WPP, Google and Deloitte, among others. 

Further key findings in the report include private equity (PE) portfolios proving a fertile hunting ground for mid-market buyers, and a number of marketing and media businesses thriving under PE stewardship and reaching sufficient scale to attract trade buyers. Among the key PE deals in Q3 2018 were Fishawack’s acquisition of Healthcircle and Williams Lea Tag acquiring Taylor James.

Also highlighted by the Kingston Smith report is the increasingly international nature of many of the transactions being seen.

The report concludes: “A strong quarter is encouraging and puts 2018 in line with the activity levels recorded in 2017 and 2016. What remains certain is that hungry acquirers will continue to hunt for deals.”

Report: Mergers and acquisitions in the marketing and media sectors – Q3 2018

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