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2020 Outlook For The Global Agriculture Sector

Geopolitical Factors

Mergers and acquisitions activity in the agriculture sector was bustling with billion-dollar deals in the years of 2017 and 2018. An M&A slowdown occurred in 2019 and spilled into 2020, largely due to uncertainty caused by global politics.

The trade war between the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China, has lowered confidence and caused global repercussions. This dispute is slowly moving in a more positive direction, as the two nations reached a “phase one” deal in January of this year. Under this deal, China pledged to boost U.S. imports of agricultural products and manufactured goods by $200 billion over the next two years, and the U.S. agreed to cut in half some of the tariffs it had imposed on China. A "phase two" deal has been mentioned but timing and expectations remain unclear. Industry experts do anticipate large U.S. farms to experience 9.3 percent growth and income over 2019. 

Brexit is another factor that is impacting the agriculture sector under implications of a trade deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared a goal to finalize a deal by the end of 2020. E.U. negotiators suggest that it is not enough time to secure the kind of complete deal needed.

Ag-Tech Opportunities

Even with the uncertainties that remain in 2020, there are significant opportunities for disruption and transformation within the agriculture sector. These opportunities are being driven by a shift towards a more high-tech industry that is expected to bolster agricultural capital investment.

  • Farmers are increasingly using apps to regularly monitor crops.
  • More localized weather data is helping farmers to better prepare for planting and harvesting times.
  • Social media is allowing farmers to better communicate directly with their customers, as studies show that 40 percent of all farmers are on Facebook.
  • A special material called graphene is being used to gather data regarding field and soil conditions to help plants survive better.

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Automated agricultural equipment is also playing a major role in the global market amid a shortage of young, new farmers. New agricultural robots are being developed across all aspects of agriculture, such as imaging, navigation, planting, weeding, and harvesting. Drones are being used for deliveries, spraying, and crop and livestock imaging. Robotic harvesting equipment is being implemented for labor-intensive harvesting tasks. Large farms are collaborating with the companies developing these technologies to lower costs and maintain a competitive advantage. And as global demand for agricultural products grows (projected at 15 percent over the next decade), robotic automation is a key facilitator in meeting the demand. The U.S., Canada, and Mexico are all adopting various agricultural robots, giving North America the highest share of the robotic farming market.

Hemp Farming

More farmers are now growing and selling forms of hemp and hemp-derived CBD as part of their overall crop. Last year, hemp businesses that had vertically integrated their supply chains performed better than those that had not vertically integrated. In 2020, it is expected that small farmers, processors and entrepreneurs will exit the industry or seek out opportunities for consolidation and integration.

Growing Conditions

2019 saw adverse growing and harvesting conditions that resulted in a smaller supply of crops such as grains and oilseeds. There is hope that these conditions will improve in 2020.

In the U.S. alone:

  • Crop yields are expected to grow.
  • The majority of the 20 million acres that were unplanted last year will likely be planted this year, primarily corn and soybeans.
  • The USDA puts the 2020 soybean crop at 84 million acres, making it the fourth-largest soybean crop on record.
  • The production of red meat and poultry is projected to rise by more than two percent.
  • Milk production will reach a record-high 222 billion pounds and pricing is expected to continue to improve.
  • Overall livestock, poultry, and dairy exports are forecasted to reach $31.9 billion, $500 million higher than previously projected.

As long as the weather cooperates and growing conditions face fewer extremes, the world should also see similar improvements in agricultural output.

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2020 Outlook For The Global Energy Sector

The global energy mix is comprised of the oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG), coal, renewable energy, and electricity sectors. The landscape of this industry has seen a great deal of change over the years, and is primed for even more change in the future. Five years ago, fossil fuels accounted for 82 percent of global primary energy. This number is targeted to decline, with large growth in the natural gas and renewable energy sectors, especially wind and solar. However, a rising global population and economic growth make it challenging for renewables to keep up with demand, meaning that fossil fuels will remain a primary source as energy demand will rise one percent each year over the next 20 years.

Oil & Gas

Oil output is projected to remain on the rise in the next 10 years, with 85 percent of the production increase coming from the United States. At the same time, oil demand is expected to slow after 2025 due to better fuel efficiency and more electric vehicles, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In 2020, shale production in the U.S. is expected to continue to grow even as growth is slowing due to reduced capital expenditures from drillers. Additionally, exports of U.S oil and LNG are forecasted to grow as infrastructure capacity increases.

As the number of U.S. oil and gas companies in distress grows amid limited funding options, there is an opportunity for smaller firms to be acquired by bigger firms, or for them to merge in order to scale operations and reduce costs. M&A strategies may be more appealing to these companies than the option of restructuring through bankruptcy.

Oil and gas prices should remain range-bound this year as production increases from non-OPEC nations such as the U.S., Brazil, and Norway.

Internationally, oil markets will be affected by the ongoing trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, as well as the result of the March expiration of the OPEC+ pledge between OPEC and non-OPEC partners for deeper production cuts.

 

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Coal

The coal industry continues to experience challenges, including declining demand, bankruptcies, climate concerns, ownership changes, and mine closures. Coal production in the U.S. is expected to decline, along with the amount of energy production that relies on coal, which is at its lowest level in more than 40 years. In contrast to the struggling coal industry, increased growth is forecasted in the renewable energy sector. According to the IEA, market share for coal will fall from 38 percent today to 25 percent in 2040, largely due to a surge in more affordable solar power.

Renewable Energy

The outlook for the renewable energy industry in 2020 is quite favorable. The sector has already seen unprecedented growth propelled by increased demand, competitive costs, innovation, and the uniting of industry forces. Renewables are likely to become a preferred provider in electricity markets this year, as customers are more concerned with saving money and addressing climate change issues. Last year, renewable energy eclipsed coal for the first time ever in the United States, with wind and solar energy accounting for about half of renewable power generation. Companies that are poised to innovate and jump on new opportunities will be in a position to thrive in this new growth phase.

Some key points regarding this sector include the following:

  • China has been the largest investor in renewable energy capacity, committing $758 billion over the past decade. The U.S. follows at $356 billion, with Japan third at $202 billion.
  • Lower prices for renewable sources and battery storage have helped to drive growth in this industry, making wind and solar more competitive with traditional energy sources.
  • Several utility companies have already outlined goals for de-carbonization and more are expected to follow suit.
  • Renewable energy will need to be scaled up significantly in order to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.
  • In 2019, 11 of the 28 countries in the European Union already met their 2020 renewable energy targets, but there has been a gradual slowing of the rate of renewable use because costs have fallen and less investment is needed to install the same level of power capacity.
  • Grid modernization projects will also contribute to growth, as renewable microgrids are becoming more popular solutions for increased efficiency.
  • In the U.S., the Production Tax Credit has been extended for 2020. However, the amount of the Solar Investment Tax Credit will be reduced from 30 percent to 26 percent. Both of these credits have been important drivers of growth in this market.

 Electricity

Power and utility companies will face several priorities and challenges in 2020, but with a balance of careful strategic planning, digital innovation, and risk management, the industry can sustain growth throughout the year.

  • Clean energy remains a major priority, as many power and utility companies are setting their own clean energy goals to help customers make the transition.
  • Cyber security is an increasing concern, with vulnerabilities being a clear and present danger.
  • Preparation and response for natural disasters will be more significant as major storms have become more common around the world.
  • Providers will continue to be more focused on improving the customer experience.

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Please contact us at Benchmark International to talk about how we can help you grow your business or formulate a solid exit plan for the future, no matter what industry in which your company operates. We look forward to hearing from you.

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2020 Global Outlook For The Media Industry

The New Media World

The media industry has undergone several major transformations in the Internet age. Magazines and newspapers have been disrupted by digital publications. News consumption has been significantly altered by the existence of social media. Broadcast radio is now challenged by satellite radio, podcasting, and both free and fee-based music-streaming services. Television continues to undergo sweeping changes that come with more and more people cutting the cord, smart TVs, and the inundation of subscription streaming platforms on a variety of scales. And all of these sector trends affect how advertising dollars are being spent and how audiences are being targeted. 2020 proves to be no different, as these trends will continue to reshape the industry.

Streaming Wars

Companies and TV networks are faced with the task of inventing new offerings for delivering content in ways that facilitate direct relationships with consumers. New bundling and tiered options will be more in demand as viewers grow frustrated with having to manage various streaming options amid a crowded sea of subscription services that go beyond Netflix and Amazon Prime. Individual TV networks are offering their own on-demand services (such as HBO Now), and big industry players are getting in the game with their own digital networks such as Disney+. And the availability of tiered streaming platforms such as BritBox and Sling TV continues to grow. The major streaming networks will be faced with how to leverage an influx of competition. These options will also need to address how advertising is delivered regarding ad-free options and ad-supported video.

Podcast Popularity

There are currently more than 700,000 active podcasts, and research shows that the consumer appetite for podcasts continues to thrive. Podcasts are going to be seen as a new vehicle for content and will garner more advertising money, with predictions that the spending amount will surpass $1 billion by the end of 2020.

 

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For the Love of Data

As media companies compete for more audiences, data will become more imperative to achieving the goals of these companies. This means that the data platforms used by media companies and advertising agencies are going to become paramount. The gathering and processing of the third-party data needed to create more meaningful and personalized experiences and services for consumers will be essential to the ability to remain competitive.

User-Generated Content

In today’s social-media-driven world, users are able to generate their own content through various mobile applications such as SnapChat and TikTok. As more of these types of platforms emerge, larger parent companies (such as the Facebooks and Googles of the world) may be inclined to acquire them to diversify their offerings and expand their user bases.

M&A Opportunity

As media companies continue to need more diverse content and content delivery options, it creates significant opportunities for mergers and acquisitions. This M&A activity is expected to be on smaller scales than the megadeals that occurred in the last couple of years. This is because there are fewer opportunities for the major networks to consolidate, especially as there is a growing over-supply of third-party streaming applications and the content rights are being withdrawn. 

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2020 Global IT Industry Outlook

The global Information Technology industry encompasses the sectors of hardware, software and services, telecom, and emerging tech including ‘as-a-service’ solutions under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT) and automating technologies.

 The global IT industry is projected to reach $5.2 trillion in 2020, with global spending growing 3.7%

As the world continues to be more digitally connected and industries become more automated, technology will remain a massively growing market in the beginning of the new decade, especially as companies focus less on cost reduction and more on innovation.

The United States is the world’s largest tech market, accounting for one-third of the total market, and exceeding the gross domestic product of most other industries. Although the US market is so large, the lion’s share of tech spending actually happens outside of the US (68%) and is made by enterprise or government entities. Western Europe is a major contributor in the global tech market, and China is also a significant player with focuses in robotics, infrastructure, software, and services.

 

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Forecasted IT Spending

In 2020, IT spending budgets will be largely driven by the needs to upgrade outdated infrastructure, address security issues, and accommodate growth. The amount of spending and the mix of services will vary by company size.

  • Smaller businesses are expected to spend more on hardware such as servers and laptops.
  • Mid-size companies will be spending more on mobile devices.
  • Larger corporations will spend more on managed infrastructure IT services such as power and climate solutions.

For software spending specifically, small businesses will focus their spending on operating systems. Mid-size companies will have a larger budget for productivity software and business support applications. Large enterprises will be spending more of their money on virtualization, database management, and communications software. Cloud services and recovery software will represent major budget allocations in the coming year and cloud spend will vary by company size.

Cloud Security

With the increasing popularity of cloud-based software and services and hybrid cloud solutions comes the increasing concern regarding cloud security. This is further reinforced by an ongoing rise in cyber attacks and data breaches. Cloud-based security solutions will remain a growing need across several sectors, especially in highly regulated ones such as finance and government. The global cloud security market was anticipated to garner $8.9 billion by the start of 2020. This need will create more opportunities for companies, entrepreneurs and investors.

 

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The Year of 5G

The highly anticipated 5G technology will see a much more momentous rollout in 2020, in contrast to the lackluster emergence in 2019. Hundreds of millions of 5G-enabled smartphones are expected to ship in 2020. 5G will deliver significantly high speeds and remarkable data capacity to expand the financial possibilities for businesses. It is able to support billions of connected devices across sectors, allow new innovation for the IoT, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality. It will also enable a new world of autonomous vehicles and smart cities through a fully connected society, shattering boundaries to create a scalable global marketplace through unified technologies. Businesses will need to be prepared with how this new technology is going to dramatically alter the possibilities of the cloud and the need for virtualization-based networks as opposed to fixed-function equipment. While it is not going to happen overnight, 5G technology will grow increasingly more available throughout 2020, changing the availability of certain devices and transforming industrial possibilities.

Edge Computing

Edge computing is not a new concept, as it has existed for years. However, the value opportunity that it represents across industries is enormous. 2020 is anticipated to be a highly emergent year for edge computing due to the availability of faster networking technologies such as 5G and analytic capabilities in smaller devices.

Edge computing allows data processing to be done physically closer to where the data is generated (the edge of the network) rather than at a massive data processing center, which in turn reduces latency and processes the data much faster. This opens up countless new opportunities. Additionally, this technology offers several benefits for businesses, such as reduced costs, improved energy efficiencies, predictive maintenance, increased reliability, smart manufacturing, and security enhancements.

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At Benchmark International, our team of M&A advisors is ready to help you plan the next steps for you and your company. Whether it is selling your business, creating an exit strategy, seeking investor assistance, or finding ways to create growth, we are here to work on your terms to help you make your future as bright as possible.

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M&A In The Hotel, Lodging & Hospitality Industry

Hotel and hospitality brands have an insatiable appetite for rapid growth and there is an endless ongoing battle for global share. Because the industry is highly fragmented and brand driven (the top hotel brands only account for a third of rooms worldwide), mergers and acquisitions are always on the table as a key growth strategy. Since 1985, there have been more than 13,800 deals in the hotel and lodging industry, valued at $809 billion.

Studies have shown that, on average, lodging M&A is unique versus those in other industries because both the target and acquirer are better off following a merger.

Hotel M&A Value Drivers

There are several value drivers when it comes to hotel brand M&A.

  • Strategic value drivers include more customer offerings, the creation of new markets, and further reach into existing markets.
  • Operational value drivers include factors such as expanded loyalty programs, consolidated corporate teams, and improved technologies and reservation systems.
  • Additional key value drivers of a hotel brand include the integrity of its global trademark portfolio, and the value of both existing and potential management/franchise agreements and real estate portfolios.

 

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Clearing Hurdles in Hospitality M&A

It is not uncommon for various issues to arise during M&A transactions between hospitality companies. However, taking the proper steps can alleviate these concerns.

Clarify intellectual property.

Portfolio expansion through the acquisition of additional brands is a major reason for many M&A transactions within the hotel sector. In these cases, the target company's ownership of its intellectual property is very important to buyers, so it is just important to sellers. This is where third-party ownership claims can arise as an issue in a transaction. If a hotel brand shares valuable restaurants or other brands with a third party, and there is any chance that the third party could claim ownership of any interest in the brand, it can significantly devalue the brand and the target company. Ownership agreements must be adequately and clearly documented before entering into an M&A transaction. It is going to be crucial to the accurate valuation of the company.

Protect your data. 

Technology is integral to every step of the hotel booking process, which is why, as a seller, you can expect buyers in M&A transactions to heed the risks and liabilities surrounding the target company's data protection and cybersecurity practices, and its compliance with governmental regulations. There are web and mobile bookings, check-ins, complicated reservation systems, and even customer review websites to consider. Due diligence in regard to detailed data protection and cybersecurity at length is imperative. In order for a target company to maximize its value, management should thoroughly review its current compliance with existing regulations and take all precautions to ensure best practices are in place to minimize exposure to potential data breaches.

 

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Minimize withdrawal liability. 

Large hoteliers and hospitality companies typically have unionized employees covered by collective bargaining agreements that require contributions to one or more multi-employer plans. Withdrawal liability can occur when an employer has a significant reduction in union workforce, a complete union workforce reduction, or a withdrawal of all employees from a pension plan as a result ofthe event of a change in management or a sale of a hotel. Labor laws vary by country, but it should still be noted that there could be issues with determining whether the hotel owner or manager is the employer by legal definitions in that reason (for example, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 [ERISA], in the United States). Multiemployer plans have the ability to disagree with who is considered the employer, and assess withdrawal liability on the party it determines is the employer. To mitigate the risk of withdrawal liability, all parties should consider who is the employer for labor law purposes, and who bears the liability under the management agreement.

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Working with an experienced M&A advisor is a game-changer in minimizing risk and closing a successful deal. We look forward to hearing from you about your interest in M&A as a seller of a company in any industry. Our global M&A experts are waiting for your call.

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M&A In The Nuclear Power Sector

Population and economic growth drive the global demand for energy. Nuclear energy is the world's second largest source of low-carbon power and it makes up 11% of the world’s electricity generation. Around 50 countries use nuclear energy, and there are hundreds of nuclear reactors in operation around the world.

There are also around 225 research reactors under operation, with more under construction. These reactors are used for research and training, and produce medical and industrial isotopes.

As the world increasingly focuses on ways to reduce carbon emissions, nuclear power has the potential to play a more pivotal role, yet the industry is seeing the state of things go both ways. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan shut down 48 of its reactors, and Germany began phasing out its nuclear program. And in several countries, the creation of new reactors is facing delays and cost issues. However, there is a bit of a dichotomy, as France still obtains 75% of its electricity from nuclear power, and the United States generates about twice as much as France.

The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that reducing emissions will be far more expensive without the availability of nuclear power.

 

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M&A Optimism

A single nuclear power plant is capable of generating a significant amount of electricity. It also requires very expensive components. For this reason, markets see drastic fluctuations from year to year. But there is still a great deal of optimism for the nuclear energy sector.

A strong appetite remains for companies that are of service to the nuclear industry. Acquirers and investors recognize the value that companies can gain from the multitude of services or products that are needed to keep the sector operational. This particular industry generates significant spending year after year in order to keep nuclear power plants compliant with the scores of federal, state and local regulations that exist. These companies must also keep up with increases in power production, which translates to regular spending on equipment and services. This type of reliability represents a quality investment opportunity. In general, the industry itself is always facing uncertainty, but the companies that have a history of serving this sector remain a solid investment.

As the energy industry transitions toward more sustainable cleaner energies, power companies are forced to alter their business models, and are faced with consolidations.  Mergers and acquisitions have the power to streamline this very fragmented sector. Some companies are simply incapable of organically achieving the level of change they need. Plus, the nuclear energy industry has to compete with the increasingly popular natural gas industry.

Also, a new class known as small modular reactors (SMRs) has been introduced to the world and is garnering a great deal of enthusiasm and support.SMRs are less expensive, more efficient, offer more flexibility for utilities, and are easier to finance. This represents a stellar opportunity for growth and investment in the nuclear power industry.

There is also another sector that wholeheartedly relies upon the operation of nuclear reactors, and that is nuclear medicine. While nuclear medicine has existed for some time (widespread clinical use began in the 1950s), later 20th-century developments increased its role in healthcare (diagnostic imaging), and it is seeing an entirely new renaissance in the 21st century. Conventional pharmaceutical companies are eagerly seeking to get in the game of radiopharmaceuticals, radiotherapeutics, and radiotheranostics. In fact, it is predicted that by the year 2030, radiotherapeutics will account for more than 60% of the market and nuclear medicine will be worth $26 billion. This represents a staggering opportunity for M&A activity.

 

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Nuclear Energy M&A Expertise

Any energy M&A transaction requires a specialized level of expertise in order to avoid pitfalls that can blow a deal. Finding the right company broker is advised.

  • Knowledge of the industry and the nature of the markets are key
  • The ability to identify areas of risk is imperative. The due diligence required for deals in this sector is exceptionally painstaking
  • Complex regulatory issues must be firmly understood. Laws and regulations in the energy industry go beyond the energy regulatory governance to include environmental, health, safety, tax, employee benefits and property issues
  • Cross-border transactions require global and local understanding of the market and the regulatory differences and how it plays into the company valuation

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Solar and Hydroelectric Power and M&A

As the world calls more and more for renewable energy sources to replace carbon-burning fossil fuels, the industries of solar and hydroelectric power offer important alternatives, as well as opportunities for mergers and acquisitions.

Solar power converts energy from the sun into thermal or electrical energy. It is one of the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy sources available. In recent decades, the cost of solar power has decreased substantially.

Hydroelectric power uses turbine-driven generators to convert the energy of moving water into mechanical energy. As one of the oldest methods of creating power, today it is one of the most largely used forms of clean, renewable energy. Because the use of hydropower relies on flowing bodies of water, its use varies based on geographical locations and circumstances.

As the world seeks to turn to cleaner sources of energy, major corporations are also doing so as part of a larger growth strategy. For example, oil giant Shell has a plan to become the world’s largest power company AND cut its carbon footprint in half by the year 2050. To achieve this goal, a majority of the energy capacity added to its portfolio must be derived from renewable power sources.

 

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Solar Power M&A

There are several factors that are proven to create opportunities for M&A in the solar energy market. Solar is still a relatively young industry, which opens up the opportunity for many newcomers to enter the industry and consolidate to grow in scale.

  • In Africa, there is an abundance of access to solar power, but there are obstacles to financing. By 2050, Africa is expected to grow from 1.1 billion to 2 billion people, with a total economic output of $15 trillion. This money can be targeted to infrastructure, energy and transportation, and global investors are taking note.
  • In the United States, the government makes it an attractive venture for companies to get into solar power through tax breaks, which translates to growth. In fact, in the U.S., solar power deals have already surpassed the $10 billion mark.
  • In Europe, companies view M&A as a strategy to enter the U.S. market.

Other opportunities for M&A in the solar energy sector surround installation and manufacturing. As the industry evolves, installers grow in size, brand, and geographical reach and gain market share through consolidation. Regarding manufacturers, the outsourcing of panel production and assembly can motivate solar companies to sell those capabilities as an outsourcing strategy.

The solar power industry is quite a global market. In order to successfully complete cross-border transactions in this space, companies should wisely enlist the expertise and network of a globally connected M&A advisory firm.

 

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Hydroelectric Power M&A

Hydropower may be a much older technology than other forms of renewable energy, yet there are still plenty of opportunities for the development of new facilities or expansion of existing infrastructure. Some of the positive aspects of hydroelectric power projects include their low operating costs, clean power generation, and lengthy service lives. On the downside, the regulatory approval process can be drawn out, and these projects call for significant early capital spending.

As in most industries, investment in hydropower is based on the project's risks and projection of future revenue. For developers to gain access to capital, they need to identify the revenue streams that will service debt (energy projects typically have several revenue streams), offer a return on investment, and have a plan to minimize regulatory and construction risks. It is typical for banks and other investors to only invest in new projects when there is certainty in the power purchase agreement.

The earlier investors are brought into the project, the more careful developers must be with regard to the terms offered. Investors may ask for ownership share or control that is excessive. Enlist the counsel of an experienced advisor to determine whether a proposal is fair. You may need more funding down the line, so the transaction must be flexible enough for more investors to get involved. The earlier you partner with an M&A advisor, the better you can plan the project’s future, and the more risks you can avoid in the long run.

Even the most encouraging and favorable hydroelectric projects can fall apart due to perceived risks. Any risks must be identified and addressed by developers as early as possible.Many issues can be environmental in nature. Research into the project’s impacts on local fisheries and species must be thoroughly conducted, and early communication with public officials is key.

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Any energy M&A transaction calls for a specialized level of expertise to ensure that the deal is done right. Finding a highly experienced global firm is in your best interest. If you desire to be on the sell-side of a deal, contact our M&A advisors at Benchmark International to begin the process of finding the perfect fit and solution for you, your family, and your company.

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Global Government Contractors And M&A

Mergers and acquisitions in global government contracting (specifically the technology, aerospace, defense, and government services industries) is a market that tends to remain stable and ripe with opportunity. This sector offers many positive qualities such as revenue transparency and predictability. Strategic buyers seek products, services, sales channels, and geographical presences that broaden capabilities and make them more competitive. Companies with advanced technologies are in an especially advantageous position for acquisition.

Yet, even in an environment that consistently sees a strong flow of defense M&A deals, there is a heightened level of risk with plenty of opportunity for errors and setbacks. The business of government contracting is highly regulated and can be extremely complex, with a great deal of challenges. It is also subject to the effects of government spending budgets—and budget cuts.

Governments enforce intricate legal and regulatory requirements. Failure to adhere to these requirements can result in government actions that include contract termination, suspension, debarment, damages and penalties. Suspension and debarment, which means that a company can no longer conduct business with the government, can be a result of unfair trade practices, fraud, commission of crimes, and even a lack of business integrity or honesty. There is also a great deal of emphasis placed on conflicts of interest.

 

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With so many possible risks, careful planning is imperative when considering a transaction in this space. It is recommended that sellers engage M&A experts with a strong reputation, transaction experience in their sector, and strong connections within the global buyer community.

It is also recommended that sellers prepare for a sale from the perspective of the buyer.  

  • Determine areas of exposureDue diligence is always important in determining an accurate valuation of a company, and this is even more so in the case of government contractors. It demands a meticulous level of scrutiny. The company’s level of compliance can directly impact the valuation. Often, many contracting companies also run commercial businesses and have less strict compliance programs versus pure government contractors, yet carry the same risks.
  • Assess risk and successor liabilitySerious risk mitigation strategies are necessary when it comes to proper recordkeeping regarding compliance, including cyber-security and socio-economic topics, as well as a lack of negative factors such as prior suspensions or debarments, tax violations, investigations, and claims. Additionally, what is the exit strategy that is in place, and how can it improve the quality of buyer conversations and increase valuation?
  • File regulatory notices and approvalsBe prepared for the filing of government notices, regulatory approval prerequisites, and post-M&A integration. These filings should be identified in the agreement, and the parties should preemptively agree to a process for securing government approvals.

Other important considerations regarding government contracts mergers and acquisitions that any seller should anticipate include:

  • Analysis of existing and prospective government contracts held by the entity to be acquired and assignment of contracts to the buyer
  • Any potential socio-economic impacts as a result of the transaction
  • The transfer of facility and top-secret clearances, as well as intellectual property rights
  • Assessment of conflicts of interest that could exclude the buyer from future contracts
  • Whether the target company is compliant with specific government regulations
  • Any existing subcontracts and teaming agreements
  • Past performance of the target company and its impact on the buyer’s ability to win other government contracts

 

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Foreign transactions may face additional challenges in completing M&A transactions in the government-contracting sector. These include more stringent due diligence processes, export law compliance, security clearances, cultural differences, and foreign investment scrutiny. This applies even further regarding higher risk regions, such as Africa.

In the case of cross-border deals, there are key concerns as to:

  • Whether the seller is considered an inverted domestic corporation and no longer eligible for future government contracts
  • If there should be inclusion of a board of directors as part of a mitigation plan to allow continuation of the seller’s facility clearance

Proper due diligence can identify risks in a transaction, create accurate representation and certifications, confirm that the adequate disclosures and indemnifications are obtained, and secure necessary government approvals, resulting in a successful and profitable acquisition.

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If you are interested in making a move in this sector, please consult with our international M&A specialists, as we have the desired experience in transactions involving government contractors and companies that support them.

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Finance and Banking Industry Outlook

The financial industry is an ever-evolving industry dealing with constant regulatory adjustments, scrutiny, competition, etc. The financial industry is also one of the first industries to look toward for a current health report on an economy as well. Numerous factors impact the financial sector, such as changing customer behaviors, macroeconomic cycles, data protection legislation, political climate, etc. 

M&A activity in the banking and finance industry has been on the rise in the last few years. This trend looks to continue as we head towards the end of 2019, and begin to take a peek around the corner in 2020.

Key Industry Trends

Look for M&A activity in the finance industry to continue to place a major focus on improving technology, product offerings, and overall customer satisfaction. 

  • At the base of much of the M&A activity, we currently see a technology arms race in the finance industry. Banks and financial institutions have identified a strong need to enhance their technological features, and this has become a focal point for M&A activity in this industry.

 

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  • One interesting factor to watch for as we move forward is the continued entrance of non-traditional players into the finance industry, commonly referred to as fintech. The fintech group is an emerging group that heavily utilizes technology to deliver financial services, unlike their more-traditional counterparts. Fintech disruptors are the technologically innovated companies that are competing head to head with the traditional financial methods we have grown accustomed to for years. As this relates to M&A activity in the finance industry, one might assume a combination of financial services and technology would make for an attractive acquisition or merger opportunity.
     
  • Customer service remains a high priority for all banks and financial institutions. However, customer service can theoretically split into two parts: The first part involves people and relationships, which smaller banks tend to tout as an advantage over larger banks. The second part is more strategic, involving product offerings that will better keep customers satisfied. Larger banks tend to win out with more product offerings over their smaller counterparts based on economies of scale, and access to significantly more resources. M&A opportunities allowing a bank to enhance its product offerings is an attractive feature as well as acquiring talent and relationships through acquisition.  For smaller banks and financial institutions that find it harder to keep up, being acquired by a larger bank may be an attractive strategy to explore as we look toward the future. 

Debt Financing and Interest Rates

Lastly, M&A transactions typically involve some form of debt financing, which a lot of times will make up the majority of the cash at close. Interest, which is the cost to borrow money, can severely impact an M&A transaction from a funding perspective, and certainly an economy for that matter.  Though they are trending higher, interest rates remain reasonable for the time being, and not far above historical standards.

It appears a significant portion of private equity firms are financing a large percentage of their M&A transactions with nonbank debt. In comparison, other groups are using cash reserves, which end up lowering the dependency on debt financing.  A movement in valuations, rates, and funding could cause a shift either way in M&A activity, though for now, the environment appears stable.  Should interest rates continue to rise, eventually causing equity market volatility, one would assume this would force buyers to focus on consolidating their strategic positions more than pursuing opportunistic acquisitions.

 

Author
Neal Wilkerson
Senior Analyst
Benchmark International

T: +1 615 924 8607
E: DWilkerson@benchmarkcorporate.com

 

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Global Waste Management Outlook

The global waste management industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% leading to 2025, with industry experts anticipating an overall value of $530 billion. An increase in environmental awareness, an increasing population, and a rise in urbanisation are all key to growth in the industry. Furthermore, implementation of stringent government norms towards dumping is anticipated to lead to further growth over the coming years. 

Where uncollected waste and dumping are impacting on health directly, this is expected to be another key factor leading to growth in the market. However, a lack of awareness and investment in developing countries is expected to hinder growth inthe industry inthose regions. With that being said, the general consensus is that the positive factors in the industry will exceed any negatives, hence the projected CAGR of 6%. Furthermore, emerging economies in Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa are contributing to growth in the industry through the implementation of solid waste management solutions, which will spread awareness in those regions and increase the number of regions developing them in the near future. 

Europe is expected to dominate the waste management market share over the coming years, owing to increases in favourable government initiatives, along with high-end technology adoption by management services. However, Asia is the region that is expected to drive the demand for waste management services, due to the presence of densely populated countries such as China and India where an increase in urban penetration is being witnessed. Moreover, as with Europe, government initiatives in the region are expected to increase the demand for waste management services.

 

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Key Industry Factors

  • In 1960 the United Nations found that the global urban population was just 34% revealing plenty of potential growth, last year that figure stood at 55%. Furthermore, estimates by the World Health Organization predict the figure to increase by approximately 1.84% every year until 2020, at a rate of about 1.63% per annum from 2020 to 2025, and around 1.44% per annum from 2025 to 2030. Naturally, as the urban population increases, the amount of waste being produced will also increase – in-fact the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW), a crucial by-product of urban lifestyle, is growing at an even higher rate than that of urbanisation.

 

  • The World Bank found that in 2016, the world’s largest cities generated 2 billion tonnes of solid waste, which amounts to a footprint of 0.74 kilograms per person, per day. With rapid global urbanisation, annual waste is expected to increase by 70% from 2016’s figure to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2050.

 

  • Increasing levels of environmental awareness regarding factors such as renewable waste management systems or rising carbon dioxide emissions are expected to lead to further growth opportunities in the industry. Businesses in the industry have been pivotal in ensuring as much MSW as possible is recycled and are conducting programs for non-hazardous industrial waste management to reduce pollution and mitigate environmental hazards. Moreover, untreated waste and dumping affect health directly and indirectly by spreading infectious diseases, thereby boosting the demand for waste management services. 

There are plenty of factors that give us reason to be confident about the future of the waste management industry. With no sign of urbanisation slowing down, waste management will continue to be an integral part of the global economy. 

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Global Printing Industry Outlook

The global print market is shrinking in volume but growing in value. Output measured in billions of A4 prints was 49,973 back in 2014 but is forecast to decline very slightly to 49,654 by 2024. In value terms, print output is expected to grow from a total of $767.4 billion in 2014 to $862.7 billion in 2024 – a CAGR of 1.18%.

The role and dynamics of the print industry are changing, with the main factor being the impact of the internet and mobile connectivity on the way both businesses and individuals communicate and access information. This affects every segment of the traditional printing business, changing expectations of what is acceptable to speed, relevance, and degree of interactivity of data, irrespective of the medium used.

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Global Oil & Gas Industry Outlook

The global oil and gas industry is expected to remain relatively stable in 2019, even amid oversupply risks and volatile pricing, as oil demand continues to increase. Oil usage is expected to grow by more than 3.5 million barrels per day.

 Key Industry Trends for 2019

  • Natural gas remains a major player as a generator of lower-carbon power, especially in North America. Over the next decade, it is expected to surpass coal to become the second-largest source of fuel worldwide.
  • China and India are leading the way in overall energy demand growth. India is projected to have the largest additional oil demand and fastest growth through 2040.
  • U.S. sanctions on top exporters such as Iran and Venezuela continue to affect the global oil industry, as a retraction in the oil supply leads to inflated global oil prices.
  • Improvements in infrastructure are becoming more critical because production and the physical ability to move products directly impacts pricing.
  • The oil and gas pipeline market is predicted to grow at more than 6% by 2024.
  • Sustainability is becoming a more central issue as renewable energy draws more investment from oil companies, and both consumers and companies wish to mitigate methane emissions.
  • The industry is focusing on how digital technologies can improve capital productivity. Robotics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and data analytics are being implemented to enhance efficiency and production.
  • The oilfield services sector will see a 10 to 15 percent increase in earnings, with a positive outlook for offshore oilfield services. There are more than 100 new projects planned for 2019 approvals and $210 billion earmarked for offshore oilfield services worldwide.
  • After years of limitations, deepwater exploration and production activity is likely to resurge this year with a spike in investments in deepwater projects.

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Increased Drilling Activity

2019 is experiencing increased activity in global oil and gas drilling, led by the United States due to shale production. Outside the United States, global drilling activity is expected to rise by 2.5 percent. Across the world’s eight major oil and gas producing regions, each is predicted to see a higher number of wells drilled.

2019 Forecasted Percentage Increase in Drilling Activity by Region

Africa: 8.7 percent

Saudi Arabia: 5.4 percent

North America: 5.1 percent

Western Europe: 3.9 percent

South Pacific: 3 percent

United Arab Emirates: 2.5 percent

Far East/South Asia: 2.6 percent

South America: 1.7 percent

Eastern Europe/Former Soviet Union: 1.4 percent

Iraq: 1 percent

The most growth in the overall global drilling market will be in offshore oil and gas drilling, with expected growth at around 6 percent. The most active offshore drilling regions are Brazil, Canada, Norway, Angola, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, China, and India.

Rystad Energy has reported that global deepwater liquid production is set to reach a record high of 10.3 million barrels per day in 2019. This is a result of new fields in Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico. Other leading deepwater producers include Angola, Norway, and Nigeria.

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The Global Logistics Market and M&A

The global logistics market is anticipated to register a CAGR of 3.48% from 2017 to 2022 to attain a market size of around $12.256 billion by 2022. These statistics are extremely encouraging for the longevity in relation to value in global logistics. Reasons for such financial increase has been pointed towards the increase of the technology sector and related systems, helping logistics to be more streamlined and efficient. Perhaps the biggest reason for growth is the increase in international trade agreements and policies which directly affect the industry, with these new trade agreements this gives existing vendors more room for expansion and also benefit from less restrictions geographically allowing for increased capacities.

Another reason for the growth concerning the logistics trade is the increase in the E-commerce industry. E-Commerce Logistics Market is expected to reach $535.895 million by 2022, supported by a CAGR of 21.2% a staggering projection about the importance of E-commerce to the logistics sector. With highly popular online retailers and stores such as Amazon, eBay, and clothing outlets bringing in high volumes of buyers thus increasing the movement of goods. This looks like the biggest global logistics markets revenue, with the increase of demand from E-commerce this will allow the logistics market to expand and continue to develop more efficient systems to increase productivity.

Logistics trends expected to transform global logistics:

  • Blockchain technology is enabling logistics companies to failsafe digital contracts, the technology allows to seamlessly track logistics, assets, and merge all documents related to the logistics of the company
  • Digitalization of the logistics industry, this is expected to reduce procurement and supply chain costs. The more complex the digital channels become and the more people who are aware of these channels, this is expected to result in a more efficient logistics
  • Emergence of 3PL (Third-party logistics) and 5PL (fifth part logistics), these services offered to consumers has increased logistics contribution on a global scale. Projections in terms of value of these kinds of services are also expected to increase until 2025 by 7%
  • Recent years in logistics have seen a trend on using data to anticipate busy periods, supply shortages and other insights to allow the business to make better decisions and run more efficiently

A big challenge for logistics in recent years is the political effect of Brexit, specifically the trade agreements between the UK and Europe. However, this will affect the sector in multiple countries. As a result, with the uncertainty of such political matters the coming years will tell how this affects logistics. Statistics show Brexit is already affecting trade flow between the UK and Europe, resulting in less movement of goods and as a result directly effecting the logistics. When trading with other countries outside Europe (America) this could result in further bottlenecks about outdated trade deals, directly the affecting the logistics industry.

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Global Food & Beverage Industry Outlook

This is an intriguing time to be involved in the global food and beverage industry. 2019 remains promising for M&A opportunities for several reasons. Giant food companies are on a spree to expand their portfolios with food innovation. Food start-ups and smaller private food companies are looking to cash in on growth and exit strategies. And private equity and venture capital firms are motivated to get their piece of the pie.  

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Real Estate Industry Outlook

The global real estate environment is off to a strong start for 2019. While uncertainties regarding trade, Brexit, and other geopolitical tensions linger, we have yet to see any major weaknesses in real estate markets. The sector continues to attract capital and pricing levels are holding steady thanks to strong capital flows. 

Real Capital Analytics (RCA) reports that acquisitions of income-producing commercial real estate last year rose by 3 percent to $963.7 billion. That is the third highest annual total on record behind 2007 and 2015.

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The Multifamily Sector

Multifamily housing is expected to continue to attract sustained investment and debt capital. Multifamily demand remains steady and is driving up rent prices as younger generations are being priced out of home ownership and older generations are downsizing. The top three emerging markets to watch in the United States for multifamily housing this year are Phoenix, Portland, and Tampa Bay.

Workforce Housing

The growing need for workforce housing is also driving the market for multifamily housing. In fact, workforce housing has actually outperformed the overall multifamily market in each of the last four years.According to a report by CBRE, workforce housing has brought in nearly $375 billion in investment over the last five years. That is more than 51 percent of the total for all multifamily asset classes.

Tech, Retail & E-commerce

Real estate fundamentals remain strong amid trends surrounding urbanization, retail, and ecommerce. Suburban markets are adapting to technology and becoming more urbanized with added focus on community-oriented retail concepts. Retail stores and shopping malls are undergoing an identity transformation, as retailers are adjusting their real estate needs to accommodate omnichannel experiences, especially in the U.S. and Europe. Additionally, e-commerce companies are adding smaller, satellite facilities to their networks of regional distribution centers as a reaction to the demand for fast, low-cost shipping.

Tech firms and flexible space providers continue to have a major impact on the global real estate market this year. Flexible space providers are targeting their focus on larger enterprises. More and more firms are leasing shared spaces. And as employees become more mobile, companies are adapting and coworking is becoming more popular. Coworking is primarily focused in high-wage markets and cities with a large number of professional services companies. Coworking spaces in tech markets are nearly double that of other markets.

Mixed-use real estate is also going to remain a significant opportunity, with the convergence of retail, office, residential, hospitality, and community-focused spaces. This adaptation is causing a shift in the types of tenants that properties are accommodating, resulting in shorter lease agreements.

REITs and Mergers & Acquisitions

Investors are expected to continue to diversify into secondary markets in search of yield. This includes real estate investment trusts (REITs), which have recently increased valuations and pay healthy dividends. Global REITs are projected to outperform other sectors and deliver strong returns in 2019. The property sectors among REITs expected to see the most M&A activity this year are industrial, self-storage, data center, multifamily, and student housing. Experts also predict the possibilities of some deals in the hotel REIT sector.

The year 2018 outperformed 2015’s prosperity for global commercial real estate investment in the current cycle, with a five percent increase in global investment volume. The U.S. accounted for 52 percent of global transactions. A total of six investors from Canada, France and China invested a record $41 billion in U.S. entities.

The value of U.S. entity-level transactions increased threefold last year, driven in majority by cross-border investment. Toronto-based Brookfield acquired Forest City Realty for $11 billion, making Brookfield the second-largest property owner in New York City, led only by the city government, and boasting a NYC portfolio worth around $32 billion. In 2018, Brookfield also acquired the second-largest U.S. mall owner, General Growth Properties, for $15 billion. Both Forest City and GGP were publicly traded REITs. 

Global Hotspots

International property is sustaining its 2018 performances as a remarkably popular market. Some of the top cities for real estate investment in 2019 include Lisbon, Toronto, Dallas-Forth Worth, Melbourne, Singapore, Berlin, New York City, Vancouver, Raleigh, Montreal, Tokyo, Madrid, Osaka, and Sydney. Specifically, the city of Lisbon has been noted to be the 2019 investment capital of Europe. This is due to increased tourism, a growing economy, and competitively lower pricing.

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Retail Industry Outlook

While ongoing geopolitical uncertainties could present challenges in 2019, the overall outlook for the global retail industry remains optimistic. In the world’s top retail market, the United States, retail sales are predicted to grow more than 3 percent to exceed $5.5 trillion. But for the first time ever, China is expected to outperform the U.S. in retail sales. China is forecasted to see a 7.5 percent growth in retail sales this year, reaching $5.6 trillion.

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2019 Outlook for the Construction Industry

The outlook for the global construction market for the year of 2019 remains positive, with an expected five-percent sector-wide growth in revenue. Robust economies, low interest rates, and increased infrastructure spending are key factors behind the increased confidence. The world’s fastest growing market is the Asia Pacific region, due to growing investments in China and India’s construction sectors. In North America and Europe, growth is being driven by new technologies in already strong construction markets. Also, a number of South American and Middle Eastern countries may see their markets recover in the coming year and have the potential for growth in the future.

M&A Momentum

Mergers and acquisitions for the construction industry are poised to follow the vigorous deal activity of 2018. Construction tech startups raised $1.27 billion in venture funding in the first three quarters of 2018 alone. Public companies were seeking growth. There was increased interest in individual sectors such as energy. Private equity firms were actively buying and selling. Another significant factor was a need for ownership changes due to a growing retirement-age population. These trends are predicted to continue throughout 2019.

Tech Startups

Construction technology startups are expected to continue to have a considerable impact this year. This industry segment has seen more than $10 billion in funding over the past 10 years, with most of the money coming from early-stage venture capital deals. As these tech companies evolve, bigger firms are making full acquisitions. One strategic reason behind these large acquisitions is for companies to procure more talent in a more efficient manner, which in turn is anticipated to drive business growth.

Smart Cities

Society is seeing a heightened focus on infrastructure upgrades and the creation of smart cities. In 2016, smart-city tech spending reached $80 billion globally. By 2021, spending is expected to grow to $135 billion. Smart cities use Internet sensors and other technologies to connect elements across a city to gather data and enhance the lives of its residents. Partnerships between private and public companies are helping governments incorporate new technologies in an increasingly urbanized world. The advent of smart cities was initially seen in Europe, and now the U.S. has begun to integrate technology into urban infrastructure.

Offsite Construction

The quickly growing modular construction market is projected to reach $157 billion by 2023. The capability to build taller modular buildings is reaching new heights, with some buildings stacking up to almost 20 stories. This offsite type of construction is addressing certain industry needs, such as the need for skilled labor, the need for affordable housing, and the need to complete projects more quickly.

Connected Construction

A rapidly emerging trend that many investors are watching closely is connected construction. Companies are incorporating technology into construction sites to save time and money. Bluetooth connectivity is driving the emergence of new worksite tools that can be tracked, monitored, and even deactivated. Mesh networks are enabling sites to be fully connected to wireless networks in order to streamline processes around obstacles in the way of man-hours, status updates, supply deliveries, blueprint consultations, and more.

These emerging technologies have prompted several recent acquisitions, just to name a few.

  • Autodesk Inc. purchased construction productivity software company PlanGrid for $875 million.
  • Autodesk also spent $275 million to buy BuildingConnected, a networking platform of more than 700,000 construction professionals.
  • Trimble bought construction software company Viewpoint from Bain Capital for $1.2 billion.   

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