European buyout industry exceeds €100bn for sixth consecutive year in face of challenging market conditions
Europe’s buyout industry continued to show appetite to deploy capital through the economic cycle, despite exceptionally challenging market conditions, according to provisional full-year data from CMBOR, the Centre for Private Equity and MBO Research based at Nottingham University Business School and supported by Equistone Partners Europe.
- Private equity dealmaking proves resilient in Europe in 2022, with €100bn aggregate value ‘floor’ exceeded for sixth year running
- Total buyout value over the past decade passes €1 trillion for the first time, underlining how embedded PE capital has become in European economies
- Private equity firms’ greater appetite to invest compared to public markets and corporate acquirers highlighted by slowdown in exit activity
- The UK remains Europe’s largest and busiest market, while France exhibits greatest impact of shift in investment strategies
The 707 buyouts completed in 2022 were worth a cumulative €117.5bn, a sharp fall from the 827 deals worth €153bn completed last year, when the industry’s rebound from pandemic disruption drove record post-crisis levels of activity. However, despite war in Europe, soaring inflation and debt markets tightening, the total value for 2022 was higher than both 2019 and 2020 – boosted by the long-term upward trend in average buyout size (€166.2m, the fourth highest total on record). The €100bn mark has therefore emerged as the industry’s new ‘floor’ for aggregate buyout value after the threshold was crossed for the sixth consecutive year. That historic run has also helped carry the total value of European buyouts in the preceding decade past €1 trillion for the first time.
“The ongoing resilience of the European buyout market – first in the face of Covid, and now against a backdrop of both war and profound economic headwinds – has been striking. It serves as a timely reminder of the industry’s well-established role in the economic landscape,” said Christiian Marriott, Head of Investor Relations at Equistone. “It’s worth noting that this year’s activity means that PE firms have invested over a trillion euros in MBOs over the past decade, another milestone on private equity’s long-term development into a mainstream asset class.”
Tellingly, exit activity has not remained as robust, as buyers involved in exits have pulled back. Outside of 2020, this year saw the lowest volume since 2009 and third-lowest annual value since 2013 (367 exits worth €94.6bn). The relative uptick in secondary buyouts as an exit route (194 valued at €54.4bn - the highest proportion of volume this millennium, at 54.0%, and second-highest share by value, at 57.6%), compared to the declines seen for both trade sales (163 valued at €40.1bn) and floatations (just one, down from 29 in 2021), points to private equity buyers’ greater appetite to deploy capital in periods of dislocation. This sustained pace of acquisitions, combined with subdued exit activity, is likely to lead to a ‘pig in the python’ effect, whereby firms will need to staff up in order to digest swelling portfolios.
The UK market was once again the busiest by volume and largest by value, with 189 buyouts totalling €41.5bn (£35.2bn). France ranks second in terms of volume, with deals having risen to 127 from 112 year on year, despite a broader Europe-wide slowdown. These activity levels are, however, being driven by smaller buyouts, with larger deals having declined significantly and cumulative deal value falling to its lowest aggregate value in over a decade (€7.9bn in 2022 compared to €22.3bn in 2021).
Meanwhile, the Netherlands experienced the inverse of France, representing the second largest market by value, totalling €23.6bn, from 47 deals, the country’s lowest total since 2013. The Dutch market’s share of value can be attributed to the outsized impact of KKR’s €7bn investment in Refresco, 3G Capital’s €6.3bn buyout of Hunter Douglas and Apax Partners and Warbug Pincus’ €5.1bn acquisition of T-Mobile Netherlands, which represented three of the year’s four largest buyouts. Germany saw 98 deals, down from 132 in 2021, valued at €10.6bn.
“It’s been interesting to see the marked contrast between geographies,” adds Marriott. “While Germany and particularly the Netherlands have skewed towards upper-mid-market and larger-cap deals, France runs counter to this, with deal volumes up but total valuations down demonstrating relatively stronger activity in the small cap and lower mid-market. Anecdotally, we’ve witnessed how, in the French market, minority deals have eclipsed buyout activity for larger-cap companies.”
TMT remains number one target
Despite the well-publicised rout in tech valuations, TMT continued to attract sizeable investment and was highest in terms of volume (177 deals) and value (€29.2bn) among all sectors for the very first time. Amid the inflationary environment, food and drink performed well by aggregate value (€14.3bn from 27 transactions), while business & support services performed well volume-wise (105 deals, the most since 2018).
“Notwithstanding the turbulent economic conditions, a number of sectors have witnessed strong buyout activity,” said Professor Kevin Amess, Director of CMBOR at Nottingham University Business School. “TMT continues to receive significant investment, a trend demonstrative of how deeply private equity has committed to covering and investing in the sector, while the strong performance of business & support services potentially indicates the beginning of a pivot away from more consumer-exposed companies.”
Notes to editors:
The data compiled by CMBOR summarises trends in buyouts across Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Turkey and the UK). Data cut-off date: the data in this press release is for deals completed by 12 December 2022.
CMBOR defines buyouts as over 50% of shares changing ownership with management or private equity, or both having a controlling stake upon deal completion. Equity funding must primarily be from private equity funds and the bought-out company must have its own financing structure, e.g., MBO/MBI.
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