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Significant growth predicted in the consultancy M&A market in 2014

The number of deals completed globally on consultancy mergers and acquisitions was up 1.4 per cent in 2013.

This is 33.8 per cent above the 2009 low and just 11.5 per cent behind 2007’s market peak, according to Equiteq’s Global Consulting Mergers & Acquisitions Market Report 2014.
This is the only publicly available information on the global consulting M&A market.
Deal volume in Europe continued to decrease seven per cent on average since 2011, but the UK bucked the trend with an upturn of six per cent. North America outweighed Europe’s decline with an increase of 11 per cent on the number of deals completed.
“Last year we forecast a gentle upturn, and there is no doubt that that has come to fruition,” says Paul Collins, managing partner at Equiteq. “Our prediction now is that 2014 will see a significant growth in volumes and prices in the market. This is in line with the improving macro-economic climate and the general M&A market.”
The multiples used to value companies were up across all sectors in 2013, with engineering and media seeing an increase of 30 per cent. Split by region, the largest change was in North America, where revenue multiples were up by 40 per cent. Asia-Pacific and South America have increased steadily over the last two years – 39 per cent and 16 per cent respectively – whilst Europe and Africa have declining revenue multiples of 18 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.
“We are seeing a very significant rise in in the volume of enquiries to the business in all geographies from small and medium-size consulting businesses looking to exit through to larger consulting practices looking for help in finding and acquiring targets,” says Collins. “That said, unlike the previous boom 2005 to 2007, we do not see a dash for just any sort of consulting capacity. Certainly, there will continue to be some large ‘acquisitions of scale’ but rather buyers are looking to acquire capability that they can scale from.”
Key areas of particular interest at the moment are:
·      Consultancies at the ‘point of innovation’ for the major software providers e.g. HANA (the in-memory database) cloud and mobile, rather than the core ERP applications
·      Big Data analytical capabilities, particular in the areas of new technologies such as NoSQL, Hadoop and Data Virtualisation
·      Sophisticated defence and cyber-security specialists to counter the increasing level of cyber security risks
·      Healthcare consultancies that can navigate the challenges from increasing regulatory requirements, difficult pricing and reimbursing schemes and long drug development processes
·      Media specialists that can drive digital capabilities to be ‘mobile enabled’ as well as integrated into overall brand and advertising promotion
“While these are in demand specialisms, for a consultancy to be attractive to buyers, it is important to have both a market focus and a set of unique capabilities that can be leveraged across the buyer’s network,” says Collins.

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