Ciesco Commentary 20 September 2018

Taking the pulse of the industry with key influencial figures at Ciesco’s global M&A event


As a leading independent M&A advisory firm specialising in the digital, media, marketing and technology sectors, earlier this year we presented our Review of the 2017 Global M&A activity at the launch events themed “Navigate the Future” in London, Amsterdam and Hamburg.

Now firmly a tradition in Ciesco’s Insights & Views calendar, these events not only offer valuable deal intelligence in terms of volume, value, geography and sector of the relevant M&A activity, the evolving buyer landscape and the types of businesses and skills sets we are seeing being acquired, but also provide key insights into the trends that we expect in the coming years.

In terms of the most attractive sectors (and sub-sectors) for the buyers, Marketing Technology (including adtech) was the most active sector. Mobile remained popular, but deal volumes went down. Data & Analytics and Digital Content & Creative agencies – featured high on acquirers’ wish lists.

Geographically, US dominated with the deal number (in line with 2016) and UK is on the second spot. While APAC was down (mainly because of the decrease in the activity in China), Western Europe was up 34%, with Germany playing a significant role in this increase in activity. Whilst creating a steady year-on-year growth through 2016, M&A activity in Germany greatly accelerated in 2017 with 63 recorded deals – a fascinating 66% increase.

We expect a busy year in 2018, with accelerated interest from Emerging Buyers and exciting new business models continuing to evolve.


Key findings

There were 1,188 deals announced (compared to 1,175 deals in 2016). Whilst 2017 did not see a big increase in the number of deals, this was still a record year for M&A activity in the sector.

Total disclosed value (adjusted to exclude 2 mega-deals with a combined value of $82bn) was $69.3bn, down 16.7% from $82.6bn in 2016.

This is a rapidly changing sector, fuelled by new market entrants coming from a wide variety of industries, such as consultancies, tech companies, and new emerging buyers (bespoke funds, Asia-based companies, telecoms/IT services).

We witness an evolving buyer landscape => Top 10 active buyers in 2017 included large networks, consultancies, PE, Tech companies and Mid-Market Groups.

Even though Dentsu remained the most active acquirer, only four major networks feature in the “top 10” list. WPP and Publicis have halved the number of acquisitions compared to 2015 levels whereas Accenture have doubled their deal count in the same period.