Sector Analysis

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

UK economy droning on

BY Richard Summerfield

The UK economy could increase by £42bn, or 2 percent, by 2030, according to a new report from PwC. This growth will be built on the increased availability and commercial applications of ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ – drones.

The report, ‘Skies without Limits’, claims that there could be 76,000 drones operating in the UK by 2030 and that around 36 percent could be used in public sectors, including defence, health and education. The number of jobs in the drone economy could be around 628,000.

One of the biggest advantages of drone use in the economy will be their ability to generate cost savings. The UK’s technology, media and telecoms industry could record cost savings of around £4.8bn by 2030, according to the report. Productivity would also benefit from greater drone usage. Cost reductions and efficiency improvements could increase so-called ‘multi-factor’ productivity by 3.2 percent, boosting GDP uplifts across multiple sectors, including the public sector, which could increase by £11.4bn, the construction and manufacturing sector (£8.6bn) and the wholesale, retail trade and food services space (£7.7bn).

Within the offshore industry, for example, the report says using drones to inspect a live flare stack on a North Sea oil platform could save £4m a day, compared to shutting the asset down for traditional methods.

Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC, said: “Drones have the potential to offer a powerful new perspective for businesses across a variety of industries, delivering both productivity benefits and increased value from the data they collect. The UK has the opportunity to be at the leading edge of exploiting this emerging technology, and now is the time for investments to be made in developing the use cases and trial projects needed to kickstart our drone industry.”

“Drones could spark significant improvements in the UK economy. The rise in GDP and job creation from drones uptake are expected to be substantial, but productivity is likely to see the greatest gains," said Jonathan Gillham, economics director at PwC. “By automating routine tasks, improving effectiveness, safety and reducing costs, drones will free up people to focus on higher-value work.”

The government is taking steps to help usher in the next phase of the drone economy, with a draft drones bill expected to be published this spring. Baroness Sugg, Aviation Minister said: “PwC’s research demonstrates the significant economic benefits that drone technology can bring to the UK. And they are already improving people’s lives – helping the emergency services and keeping key national infrastructure like rail lines and power stations safe. Excitingly this is just the beginning, which is why Government is doing everything possible to harness the huge future potential through our Industrial Strategy and Drones Bill.”

Report: Skies without Limits

Digital doubts for CPOs

BY Richard Summerfield

Procurement has continued to deliver solid savings and manage risk, according to the eighth annual 'Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey' from Deloitte.

While most procurement leaders feel supported by their executives, they are, however, unsure about whether they are contributing significant strategic value, the report suggests.

However, more procurement leaders believe that their teams have sufficient capabilities to deliver on their procurement strategy – 49 percent of those surveyed, compared to 40 percent in 2017. The survey also indicates that while many CPOs have high hopes for the potential of analytics to transform their profession, only a third of them are utilising such technology.

Though many organisations have identified digital skills as a major area of focus, the majority of companies are neglecting to prioritise digital functions. Just 3 percent of CPOs believe that their teams possess the skills required to maximise digital capabilities. Only 16 percent of procurement leaders surveyed were focused on enhancing these skills. Seventy-two percent of procurement leaders are spending less than 2 percent of their budget on training, compared to 66 percent in 2017. Furthermore, 17 percent of procurement leaders do not have a digital procurement strategy.

“With today's global supply chains, risk exists across geopolitical and economic disruptions," said Brian Umbenhauer, principal and global head of sourcing and procurement at Deloitte Consulting LLP. "There are demonstrated techniques to help drive value, reduce risk and meet goals – from digital transformation to increasing visibility and properly training teams – but CPOs right now are struggling to make the most of them. Major benefits and competitive advantage await those who do.” 

Despite uncertainty around issues such as Brexit, NAFTA, weakness and volatility in emerging markets, rising geopolitical risks in the Middle East and Asia, as well as the spillover effects of a slowdown of China, many procurement leaders remain cautiously optimistic about the future.

“Lack of visibility is a major concern for CPOs as they look to navigate global headwinds and prepare their teams for the future of procurement and innovative technologies,” said Mr Umbenhauer. “Visibility throughout the supply chain is a key tool for meeting regulatory and corporate social responsibility requirements while mitigating risk.”

For most respondents, cost reduction, product and market development and managing risk are the top business priorities. Despite concerns, 61 percent of CPOs delivered better year-over-year savings performance than last year, with the highest-performing leaders excelling in executive advocacy, leadership, talent and digital.

Report: The Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey 2018

Power and utilities M&A hit $200bn in 2017, reveals new report

BY Fraser Tennant

Mergers & acquisitions (M&A) in the power and utilities sector reached an eight-year high in 2017, seeing 516 deals with a total value of $200.2bn, according to a new report by EY.

In its ‘Power transactions and trends: 2017 review and 2018 outlook’, EY reveals that 2017 saw a 57 percent year-on-year rise in renewables deal value to $42.8b globally, with the US particularly strong – up 71 percent compared to 2016.

Indeed, renewable energy tops the growth agenda in the Americas, with US deal value reaching $102.2bn – the highest recorded level of global investment. Furthermore, networks represented $29.4bn of total Americas deal value, while $28.4bn was attributable to integrated assets, $24bn to generation and $14.2bn to renewables.

“In the Americas, 2017 was marked by three investment themes,” said Matt Rennie, EY global power & utilities transactions leader. “Network assets continued to be highly attractive to investors seeking yield in a low interest rate environment, renewable energy investment activity remained strong, driven in part by ongoing support at state level and investments in energy technology start-ups continued to gain prominence – particularly on the west coast of the US.”

The EY report also notes that investors are continuing to look to yield investments for long-term, stable returns amid low interest rates and excess capital.

“2017 was a formative year in power and utilities transactional activity,” continues Mr Rennie. “Investments in the conventional energy sector were dominated by the changing generation mix, as renewable energy continued to account for an increasing proportion of the system, and low interest rates again drove yield capital toward regulated networks.”

According to EY, last year also saw a resurgence in M&A involving independent power producers (IPP), particularly in Europe and the US, where IPP deals more than doubled in value – from $15.2bn to $33bn year-on-year. In addition, over the last two years, new energy-focused start-ups raised $746m of funding (series A and B), of which $253m was focused on energy services.

In terms of European deal value, 2017 was similar to 2016 levels, an 11 percent increase in volume to 213 deals. Renewables contributed 30 percent of total deal value, with networks accounting for 27 percent and generation 26 percent. In Asia-Pacific, renewables deal value grew 72 percent year-on-year to $13.5bn.

Mr Rennie concludes: “We also saw the new energy market continue to grow in both scale and importance. As technology companies increasingly become a mainstream contingent within the electricity system, we expect them to focus on arbitraging network peaks and to focus on the long-term needs of a decentralised future energy market.”

Report: Power transactions and trends: 2017 review and 2018 outlook

Sanofi to acquire Ablynx for $4.8bn

BY Richard Summerfield

French pharmaceutical multinational Sanofi is to acquire Belgian rival Ablynx for $4.8bn, its second multi-billion dollar deal this month.

Sanofi will pay €45 per share in cash for Ablynx, a premium of 21 percent over its closing price on Friday 26 January, and more than double the price before Novo Nordisk – a rival Danish firm which made an unsolicited takeover offer for Ablynx – went public with its initial bid for the company earlier this month. The Sanofi deal, which has been approved by the boards of both companies, is expected to close by the end of the second quarter 2018. Sanofi’s bid is 48 percent above Novo’s unsuccessful offer.

Novo made a €2.6bn unsolicited offer for Ablynx in January, however that offer was rebuffed and the company reconsidered its options due to “unrealistic premiums”. The pharma space has become an increasingly competitive market of late. With companies looking to bolster their product pipelines and generate growth, acquisitions of smaller competitors has become common practice. Last week Sanofi announced it had agreed to acquire Bioverativ for $11.6bn, its biggest deal for seven years.

In a statement announcing the deal, Sanofi’s chief executive Olivier Brandicourt said: “With Ablynx, we continue to advance the strategic transformation of our Research and Development, expanding our late-stage pipeline and strengthening our platform for growth in rare blood disorders. This acquisition builds on a successful existing partnership. We are also pleased to reaffirm our commitment to Belgium, where we have invested significantly over the years in our state-of-the-art biologics manufacturing facility in Geel. We intend to maintain and support the Ablynx science center in Ghent.”

Ablynx’s chief executive Edwin Moses said: “Since our founding in 2001, our team has been focused on unlocking the power of our Nanobody technology for patients. The results of our work are validated by clinical data. As we look ahead, we believe Sanofi’s global infrastructure, commitment to innovation and commercial capabilities will accelerate our ability to deliver our pipeline. Our board of directors feels strongly that this transaction represents compelling value for shareholders and maximises the potential of our pipeline to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

One of the key drivers of the Sanofi/Ablynx deal was the Belgian company’s experimental drug caplacizumab, which is used to treat the rare bleeding disorder acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.

News: Sanofi beats Novo to buy Ablynx for $4.8 billion in biotech M&A boom

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