European buyouts down in Q1 but confidence picks up in some markets

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  • UK still leading the market; France almost matches on deal volume
  • European PE-IPOs bounce back 
  • Retail takes the lead over manufacturing by value for the first time 

London, 4 April 2013 – The overall value of European buyouts totaled €11.1b in Q1 2013, a 17% decrease from €13.3b in Q4 2012 and 21% below the value for the same period last year (€14.1b), according to the latest data published by the Centre for Management Buyout Research at Imperial College (CMBOR), sponsored by EY and Equistone Partners Europe.

With €3.8b from 33 deals, the UK continues to lead the European market in terms of value but has almost been matched by France in terms of deal volumes. Despite a flurry of activity that saw 47 deals close in Q4 2012, UK deal activity is now at its lowest point since Q4 2009 and has fallen by over 50% from the record high of 68 deals in Q1 2012. The French market appears to be overcoming the inertia seen throughout 2012 with 30 deals so far this quarter accounting for almost 30% of total deal activity. However, it is the smaller end of the market that has picked up and the average deal size remains low at just €53m.

Sachin Date, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA) Private Equity Leader at EY comments: “The PE buyout market across Europe continues to be led by the UK but France has recovered from low levels of activity and is not far behind in terms of deal volumes.  The size of the market has reduced and this reflects the low levels of confidence from the second half of 2012 materializing in low levels of deal completion. The top ten exits this quarter show a healthy split across IPOs, trade sales and secondary buyouts. It is positive to see corporates still finding good, strategic businesses to acquire, and the second largest exit so far this quarter was One GmbH/Orange Austria Telecommunications’ trade sale for €1.3b to Hutchinson 3G. ”

Leonid Saveliev, EY (CIS) Partner added:"Whereas in the PE industry in the Western Europe there remains a large exit overhang (companies are waiting to be sold), growth in Russia and the CIS, if properly managed, may potentially be driven externally by the ongoing movement of investors from traditional markets to Eastern European and Asian markets."

European PE-IPOs bounce back
European Private equity-backed IPOs[1] raised €1.7b through one IPO in 2012, the Dutch cable operator Ziggo. Despite the low volumes last year, sentiment may be reaching an inflection point at the end of this quarter, thanks to the recent PE-IPOs, including Countrywide, raising €866m, Esure Group plc, raising €1.4b and Hellermann Tyton Ltd’s recent listings for €483m, all on the London Stock.

Moleskine SpA has also announced their intention to list on the Milan Stock Exchange which is expected to raise €247m on Borsa Italiana.

Sachin comments: “The resurgence of IPO activity at the end of the first quarter is encouraging for the exit market. As long as the IPO market remains open, we expect to see more PE-backed companies make it to a public listing this year.”

Retail takes the lead over manufacturing by value for the first time
Retail dominates the sector picture in terms of value (€3.4b), with two of the biggest deals of the quarter – Douglas Holding and B&M Retail. Many retailers across Europe are experiencing significant signs of distress as discretionary consumer spending decreases and technology fundamentally changes their business models. This changing landscape presents significant opportunities for PE leading to an increase in activity. By number of deals, manufacturing was still the largest European sector with 35 buyouts (compared to 53 in Q1 2012) in €2.4b, followed by business services (15 buy-outs at €1.2b).

Germany and the Nordics see decline
There were only 12 deals in Germany and 10 deals combined in the Nordic countries, compared to 23 for Germany and 19 in the Nordics in the previous quarter. Germany saw a 30% drop in deal value from €2.7b in Q4’12 to €1.9b in Q1’13. However, the future pipeline in both the Nordics and Germany looks good and activity should pick up as the year progresses.

Refinancing increases as PE amend and extend
There is still an overhang of portfolio assets originally scheduled for exit being delayed because of valuation expectations. The result has been more PE houses taking an “amend and extend” approach rather than reduce their price expectations. In 2009 only €3b of refinancing was recorded compared to over €17b in 2012. This trend of refinancing existing assets is likely to continue in 2013.

Secondary buy-outs slow
Secondary buy-outs (SBOs) are down from the previous quarter in terms of volume and value with only 31 deals and €5.4b, so far this year. Notably foreign divestments were very low with only 4 deals and €28m in Q1’13, compared to 12 deals and nearly €2b in Q4’12.

Healthy pipeline of activity
It’s been a slower first quarter compared to this time last year, however, as the completion of a number of announced deals, such as Aibel (€1165m), Intertrust (€675m), together with rumored deals such as Civica, Elior and Allflex, should improve the picture for the next couple of quarters.

Sachin concludes: “Although the market has not grown in the first quarter there is still a lot to play for in 2013. There is a healthy deal pipeline; the IPO market has regained some momentum; and as businesses continue to adapt and accept the new norm of today’s market conditions, we expect deal activity to pick up.” 

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[1] CMBOR IPO data relates to European PE-backed buy-outs (in which a private equity firm or management previously had controlling stakes) that have exited by listing their shares on a recognized stock market. The deal exit value is the market capitalization value at the start of the first day of trading. CMBOR data does not include IPOs of other private equity stages such as growth and expansion capital.