PE fundraising strong in CEE reveals new report

BY Fraser Tennant

Private equity (PE) fundraising for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) hit the highest annual level in a decade in 2018 with €1.8bn, according to a new report by Invest Europe.

In ‘2018 Central and Eastern Europe: Private Equity Statistics’, the association reveals that buyout funds in CEE raised a total of €1.1bn last year, while the region’s venture capital (VC) funds attracted over €500m for the second year running.

Furthermore, PE investment into companies across CEE reached €2.7bn, the second-highest amount ever achieved, following 2017’s record €3.5bn. The number of companies backed increased by 50 percent year-on-year to almost 400, also the second-highest level on record. This was driven by a sharp increase in CEE companies supported by VC.

The number of PE and VC-backed exits in CEE also reached an all-time high in 2018, with 128 companies divested. This represented a total value of over €1bn for the fifth year running, measured at historical investment cost. Poland accounted for over half of this total exit value with €575m.

“The strong levels of private equity fundraising, investment and exit activity in Central and Eastern Europe in 2018 demonstrate that the region continues to develop as an attractive investment destination,” said Robert Manz, chair of Invest Europe’s Central and Eastern Europe Task Force. “Global investors see that private equity and venture capital investment is one of the best ways to access the region’s robust markets and high-growth companies.”

In addition, Poland saw CEE’s highest amount of PE investment with its companies receiving €850m in total last year, while the Czech Republic saw €767m invested into its companies via PE and VC funds. Hungary had the highest number of companies receiving investment with over 190 backed last year, almost half of the regional total.

In terms of sectors, biotech and healthcare saw the highest share of CEE’s PE investment, with 32 percent of the total value in 2018, while consumer goods and services companies received 27 percent of funding.

The report also notes that the CEE region also has strong technology start-up credentials, including Czech cyber security group Avast – which was 2018’s largest tech initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange at a valuation of £2.4bn.

Report: 2018 Central and Eastern Europe: Private Equity Statistics


Global insurance M&A hits four-year high

BY Richard Summerfield

The level of global insurance industry M&A has increased considerably in recent years, according to Clyde & Co’s ‘Insurance Growth Report 2019’.

There were 222 completed insurance M&A deals worldwide in the first half of 2019, up from 196 in the second half of 2018, a 13.2 percent increase – the highest increase in the volume of transactions since the first half of 2015. The figure also represents the fourth consecutive six-month period of M&A growth. Mega-deals have continued to be a factor in dealmaking in the insurance space, with 11 deals in H1 2019 valued at over $1bn. There were 18 in the whole of 2018.

“Despite recent signs of market hardening, delivering a positive result for shareholders remains challenging and M&A is an attractive strategy to deliver growth for re/insurance businesses around the world,” said Ivor Edwards, a partner and European head of the corporate insurance group at Clyde & Co.

Europe has seen a rush of completed deals that had been put on hold due to Brexit preparations, the report notes. Europe saw the biggest increase in M&A activity – up 39.7 percent – with 88 completed deals in H1 2019 compared to 64 in H2 2018. France led Europe in terms of insurance M&A activity and was the second most active country worldwide, just behind the US. The UK and Spain were next in the list.

Away from Europe, dealmakers have been buoyed by a combination of strong economic growth, notably in the US, and positive growth prospects for the insurance sector. In the Asia-Pacific region, 38 insurance M&A deals were recorded during H1 2019, marking the fourth straight period of rising deal volume to the highest level since 2015. Japan led the region in terms of deals made, followed by Australia and India.

Though the US remains the world’s most active nation in terms of M&A volume, it saw its third consecutive drop in H1 2019, with 66 deals completed. Geopolitical and financial uncertainty relating to potential trade wars involving the US may have rattled investors and could make dealmakers more cautious in the second half of 2019.

Report: Insurance Growth Report 2019

Cost of unicorns grows

BY Richard Summerfield

It is more expensive to become a unicorn in the US than ever before, with the median sum raised prior to the status-conferring round soaring to $126.1m in the first half of this year, according to Pitchbook’s 2019 unicorn report.

The sums raised by companies before becoming a unicorn – which are start-ups valued at over $1bn – are approaching all-time highs.

At midyear, there were 187 active unicorns in the US, with an aggregate private valuation of just over $600bn, down from the peak of $603.3bn recorded in 2018.

The growth of unicorns can be attributed to a number of factors, including burgeoning interest of non-traditional venture capital (VC) investors. 2018 saw a peak of $43.5bn invested across just over 100 transactions, while the first half of 2019 is going strong at $17.7bn invested and 53 completed financings of unicorns both old and new. Indeed, 2018 saw 12 deals worth a total of $4.8bn closed with only foreign investor participation. The first half of 2019 saw over $6bn of foreign capital invested in the unicorn space.

From an exit perspective, 2019 has already been a notable year, with a new record of close to $160bn realised across only 14 acquisitions or initial public offerings of unicorns, with around $142bn of that figure attributed to IPO exit value.

“Current unicorns will be truly tested by a significant market shock, which, given that nearly all have only existed within one of the largest bull markets in history, would present a challenge most have yet to face,” said Garrett James Black, senior manager, custom research and publishing at Pitchbook.

He continued: “It is difficult to envision any waning in investor willingness to fund companies to unicorn status unless there are significant market shocks to derail investing activity. The incentives for early exposure to rapidly growing, mature companies are still intact, especially given that several have validated their valuations in public debuts this year. The common limiting factor is the number of investment firms that have the resources and wherewithal to take on the inherent risk and potential outsized reward. There are enough such firms, especially as VC grows more institutionalised.”

Report: Pitchbook’s 2019 Unicorn Report


Cloud container vulnerabilities increase – report

BY Richard Summerfield

Adoption of cloud technology has increased considerably in recent years, however vulnerabilities in cloud containers have also increased, according to a new report from Skybox Security.

Skybox’s ‘2019 Vulnerability and Threat Trends Report: Mid-Year Update’ notes that vulnerabilities in cloud containers have increased by 46 percent compared to the same period in 2018, and by 240 percent compared to 2017,. However, less than 1 percent of newly published vulnerabilities were exploited in the wild, with 9 percent having any functioning exploit developed at all.

Over the last two years, the total number of new vulnerabilities has outpaced any other previous year. However, the number of vulnerability reports in the first half of 2019 declined by 13 percent compared to the same period last year. Still, the current figures are historically high, and it seems annual totals of around 15,000 new common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) will be the new norm.

“More than 7000 new vulnerabilities were discovered in the first half of 2019 — that’s still significantly more than figures we’d see for an entire year pre-2017. So, organisations are likely still going to be drowning in the vulnerability flood for some time,” said Ron Davidson, chief technology officer and vice president of research and development at Skybox. “Roughly a tenth of these have an exploit available and just one percent are exploited in the wild. That’s why it’s so critical to weave in threat intelligence into prioritization methods, and of course consider which vulnerable assets are exposed and unprotected by security controls.”

To better protect themselves against attack, the report suggests that companies “assess occurrences against the latest threat intelligence, as well as the relationship of vulnerable assets to the security controls that could protect them. This way, action will be focused on the small subset of vulnerabilities posing a critical risk to your business.”

Organisations should ensure that they have reliable coverage to assess and prioritise vulnerabilities in public and private clouds and operational technology systems to truly understand the risks they face.

The report also noted that cryptocurrency ransomware, botnets, and backdoors appear to have substituted cryptocurrency mining malware as a tool of choice for cyber criminals. The use of these methods increased by 10 percent, 8 percent and 18 percent respectively.

Report: 2019 Vulnerability and Threat Trends Report: Mid-Year Update

M&A deal value in MENA spikes in H1 2019, says new report

BY Fraser Tennant

Deal value in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region increased by 220.8 percent to $115.5bn in H1 2019 – up from $36bn in H1 2018 – according to a new EY report.

In its ‘H1 MENA M&A’ report, EY reveals that, while deal value increased significantly. deal volume witnessed a decrease of 10.7 percent, with 216 announced deals in H1 2019, down from 242 deals recorded in H1 2018.

Among the key deals in H1 2019 was Uber’s acquisition of Careem Networks for $3.1bn, the largest technology sector transaction to date in the Middle East, as home-grown technology start-ups find themselves being pursued by global players. The largest deal during H1 2019 was Saudi Aramco’s acquisition of a 70 percent stake in SABIC worth $69.1bn from PIF.

“MENA corporates are finding innovative ways to raise capital and have stepped up the frequency of their portfolio reviews,” said Matthew Benson, MENA transaction advisory services leader at EY. “Companies are reviewing their portfolios every quarter or more frequently – more often than global executives. With more frequent portfolio reviews, several non-core businesses are set aside for divestment thereby fuelling deal activity.”

In terms of domestic M&A activity, deal value in H1 2019 was driven by mega deals, with 111 deals amounting to $79.3bn, compared with 96 deals amounting to $5.5bn in H1 2018. In comparison, MENA witnessed 65 outbound M&A deals worth $21bn, compared with 77 deals worth $18.2bn in H1 2018.

As far as inbound investment is concerned, H1 2019 witnessed a fall in M&A deal volume in the MENA region, with 40 deals amounting to $15.1bn, compared with 69 deals valued at $12.3bn in H1 2018. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was ranked the highest in terms of inbound M&A investment in the region, with 20 deals amounting to $14.4bn.

The EY report also reveals that the oil & gas sector was the top target sector for inbound activity, accounting for $10.8bn. Furthermore, four out of the six inbound deals in the sector were in the UAE, including three mega deals.

“Large sums of inbound M&A reinforce the MENA investment thesis,” said Anil Menon, MENA M&A and equity capital markets leader at EY. “We continue to believe that these are good times for strategic acquisitions in MENA.”

Report: EY H1 MENA M&A

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