Deal flow in the PE market continues to move—here’s why

By Chris Vane | May 17, 2017
Categories: In the trenches, M&A

What’s hot in the deal world at the moment? The fintech sector continues to generate steam and so is another industry, the wine business. Private equity investors’ interest in turnarounds has diminished somewhat, and they are instead prioritizing growth and control in their investment strategies.

These were just some of the noteworthy learnings and interests expressed by private equity firms during the Association for Corporate Growth’s (ACG) West Coast M&A Conference in San Francisco this spring. As they networked, attendees said they’re seeking deals that typically have 10% of revenue EBITDA or a total of $3 million to $15 million of EBITDA at a minimum. Optimism is high with expectations that we’ll see deals continuing to flow but possibly slow down toward the end of the year.

Here are the highlights of what’s on dealmakers’ minds at the moment—most of the conference attendees represented firms seeking deals in the $5 million to $100 million range. The firms represented at least five states including many from New York, Massachusetts, Arizona, North Carolina, Connecticut and, of course, California.

An active market

Deal flow continues to be strong, and everyone is seeing lots of activity, according to participants of the keynote, who included Dipanjan Deb of Francisco Partners, John Kim HIG of Growth Partners and Dave Welsh of KKR.

The overall belief is that the past two years have been particularly fruitful, and that opportunities will slow down toward the end of the year as a result. The innovators of the fintech market are getting attention, leading to one of the most robust deal areas as the entire banking system is disrupted by these strong niche players.

Success vs. failure

There are some big deals to be had in the PE space. Darren Abrahamson of Bain Capital emphasized that the talent of the management teams is a critical factor in the success or failure of a deal. Everyone during a panel that included Abrahamson, Heather Madland of Huron Capital, Greg Clark of Symantec and Mark Grimse of Rambus hit on this theme: No matter how big the transaction—the outcome ultimately comes down to management’s ability to execute pre and post deal.

Moreover, they went over what derails some deals—inadequate systems and processes can take much of the blame. The panelists emphasized that successful companies need a strong understanding of their core competency (high value add) versus other strengths of their business.

A different varietal of M&A

The wine industry has had a tremendous number of deals over the past year, and owners believe it’s hitting a peak. This industry is extremely “high touch” and relationship driven due to the family nature of ownership, noted panelists who focused on this topic, including Adam Beak of Bank of the West, Pat Roney of Vintage Wine Estates and Richard Mendelson of Premium Wine Properties.

The business model of three-tier distribution comes into play as well as cash flows that can be varied across different properties. Money is not the only thing that is driving high valuations—brand and locations are key factors as well.

The road ahead

This M&A Conference had a positive tone. Deal flow this year is very strong due to the low cost of capital and the overall optimism in the economy. Overall the PE market continues to chug forward as the cost of money and quality of deals are favorable. There are some niches doing particularly well (fintech) and few areas are struggling. Valuations seem to be both beneficial to both the PE firms and companies.

Chris Vane is a director at RoseRyan, where he leads business development for this finance and accounting consulting firm’s high tech and cleantech practices. He helps fast-moving companies calm the chaos with precision finance at any stage. He can be reached at cvane@roseryan.com, or call him at 510.456.3056 x169.

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