There are a number of trends shaping the European private equity dealmaking landscape, including an increasing penchant for loans as a financing option, elevated participation from non-European investors in European PE deals and Brexit's potential toll on the economies of UK and broader Europe. Deal, exit and fundraising activity all took a slide in 2018, but in a Q&A session, ACG members Titus Schurink of HPE Growth Capital and Stewart Licudi of William Blair offer their takes on what that truly portends going into 2019.
In 2018, European PE saw:
European PE deal value was down slightly in 2018 while count saw a steeper decline. Access to financing remained inexpensive, and a rise in overall leverage helped dealmakers bid up for deals, pushing up the average deal size. These factors, coupled with increased competition, meant that EV/EBITDA multiples rose as well, with the median hitting a record high, despite the decline seen in public market indices across the region, which typically depresses multiples due to mark-to-market practices. The pressure from poor equity markets performance allowed activists to effectively agitate for change, sparking deals across the region.
While the decline in deals was marginal, the drop-in exit activity was more substantial. This is not a new development, however. Exit activity has been trending downward since peaking in 2015. Secondary buyouts (SBOs) further lifted their share of exit count in 2018, accounting for over half of all exits for the first time on record. IPOs—common among larger exits—saw little action on the year due to broad-based weakness in public market indices throughout the region.
Fundraising saw declines in count and value as well. Particularly noteworthy was the steep decline in the number of vehicles raised. European PE firms raised the fewest funds in over a decade, yet the total capital raised was the second-highest amount raised post-financial crisis. As a result, the average buyout fund hit a record, eclipsing €1 billion for the first time.
Titus Schurink is the chief financial officer of Amsterdam-based PE firm HPE Growth Capital. He’s also an active board member for ACG’s Holland chapter, and a former global board of directors’ member. Stewart Licudi is a managing director and head of European financial sponsors coverage for William Blair based in the firm’s London office. Additionally, he is the former chairman of EuroGrowth and the ACG UK chapter.