Ciesco 2020 Global M&A Review and 2021 Outlook

Tech and media sector ready to power M&A bounce-back in 2021

As dealmakers, we are accustomed to facing uncertainty, but the scale and speed of COVID-19 sent shockwaves through the global economy and the M&A market. The 2020 year started with unprecedented highs in deal volume in Q1 compared to the prior year. Q2 saw a steep decline as the impact of COVID-19 took effect. Companies focused their management teams to protect revenues and bottom line as trading declined. In the second half of the year, we saw signs of improvement and the rebound of deal making activity in the sector.

Our Global M&A Review details the M&A deal activity throughout 2020 and reports global resilience in the tech, digital, media and marketing sectors in the face of the Covid crisis.

Ciesco tracked 1,091 transactions in 2020, the sector experienced a 19% drop over 2019 levels, on par with average global decline in general M&A activity driven by COVID-19. The total value of deals, excluding mega-deals (defined as deals over $10bn, in 2020 – Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack for $27.7bn), was $55.9bn, a 50% decline on 2019 levels.


Despite the business uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis, 2020 was a more eventful year for the M&A activity than may have been expected. Deal activity remained global throughout the year – with buyers acquiring targets from 84 different countries.

“Our report demonstrates the attractiveness of data and technology-driven business models to financial investors, and through last year’s turbulence, businesses are learning to adapt and future-proof their operations. 2021 will be a period of re-invention for many companies. Technology and data will be at the forefront of this evolution, with smart use of data informing decisions across all parts of an organisation.”

– Chris Sahota, Founder & CEO of Ciesco

Figure 1: Annual M&A deal volume and value 2015-2020

The Private Equity market showed the greatest buoyancy. PE deals in tech, digital, media and marketing represented 37% of all M&A activity in 2020. This was down from 42% in 2019, but notably higher than 13 % in 2017. Consultancies, tech companies and holding companies contributed to a diverse buyer universe, joining Private Equity among the Top 10 acquirers.

The report expects the outlook for 2021 to bring opportunities to investors looking to back companies with dynamic business models. E-commerce is predicted to drive retail this year and Special Purpose Acquisition Companies, which totalled $80bn in fundraising last year, are forecast to drive fundraising in 2021.

Ciesco 2020 M&A Review features:

  • Our deal activity analysis by Volume, Disclosed values, Buyer categories, Geographical regions and Target sectors.
  • We are also pleased to include four guest editorials from various industry leaders across different target and buyer sectors and categories – Accenture, LDC Private Equity, Pereira O’Dell and Merkle (part of Dentsu)
  • The report provides insights and trend analysis of Private Equity-backed activity, along with an overview of the buyer landscape and our outlook for the sector in 2021 and beyond.

Whether you are a potential investor, a strategic buyer or a stakeholder planning the future for your business, we hope you find the information in this review report insightful and informative. All reported data on deal activity is overlaid with our perspectives and insights, reflecting our substantial knowledge and understanding of the overall industry. Ciesco Outlook, in particular, reflects our deep roots, experience and expectations of being practitioners in the sector and having managed and strategically led companies throughout the various disciplines and geographies.

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