The Argos Index® mid-market

2nd quarter 2021

01

Ongoing rise in the Argos Index®, to 11.6x EBITDA

The Argos Index® continued its strong rise begun in H2 2020, to 11.6x EBITDA, a new all-time high.

As in Q1, the index was buoyed by higher multiples paid by investment funds, up to 12.9x EBITDA in Q2. Multiples remained at very high Q1 levels in other market segments.

The high level of the index was also boosted by transactions in the healthcare and technology sectors, which again accounted for half of all transactions in the Argos Index® in Q2 2021. These transactions were carried out at higher multiples than those of other sectors (12.8x EBITDA vs 10.7x), and higher than in the previous quarter.

The index’s ongoing rise was also helped by especially favourable macroeconomic conditions: faster-than-expected recovery in economic growth due to the stepped-up vaccination campaign in Europe, and to massive support for economic stakeholders from individual countries, the EU and the ECB.

02

Investment funds paid record-level multiples

The multiples paid by investment funds continued to increase significantly, to a record 12.9x EBITDA in Q2.

Multiples were driven by the rapid recovery in economic growth, the ongoing record-level investment in private equity1, low-cost access to debt and robust competition from strategic buyers for companies unaffected by the crisis.

Total acquisitions worldwide made by investment funds2 reached $513bn in H1 , a level not seen since the 1980s, representing 18% of the M&A market.

As in Q1, mid-market transactions made by funds were more homogeneous than those paid by strategic buyers; the relative standard deviation for the first group was 33% vs 48% for the second. The profile of companies acquired by funds remained more homogeneous: high-quality companies relatively unaffected by the crisis.

 

1 The total amount of dry powder reached $1.5tn according to Prequin (FT/Lex, 01.07.2021)

2 Source: Refinitiv in the FT, 01.07.2021

Graph 2 – Enterprise value / historical EBITDA
Source: Mid-market Argos Index© / Epsilon Research
03

The share of multiples > 15x rose sharply in H1

The share of transactions with multiples higher than 15x EBITDA rose again in H1 2021, to nearly one fourth of analysed transactions.

Graph 3 – Share of transactions with multiples >15x EBITDA Argos Index™ sample
Source: Mid-market Argos Index© / Epsilon Research
04

Listed companies were especially active in the mid-market, buoyed up by the steady rise in equity markets

Large listed companies represented 80% of strategic buyers in H1, a record since the Argos index was launched in 2004.

Buoyed up by the economic context and low-cost financing, these companies made structural acquisitions (digitisation, climate), as well as opportunistic acquisitions of unlisted assets which were

They also benefited from the continuing rise in equity markets1 and from their own record-level multiples, which were stable this quarter at 10.1x EBITDA2.

 

1 The EURO STOXX® TMI was up 5.1% in Q1 2021 and has risen more than 60% since 01.04.2021

2 EV/TLM EBITDA was 10.1x for listed eurozone mid-market companies (source: smallcaps.infrontanalytics.com)

Graph 4 – Comparison of listed and unlisted mid-market multiples (paid by strategic buyers)
Source: Mid-market Argos Index© / Epsilon Research / InFront Analytics
05

Significant recoveryin mid-market M&A activity

Mid-market M&A activity in the eurozone is recovering progressively, and in Q2 rose 18% in volume and 7% in value (reported) from the previous quarter. While activity has returned to its 2019 level in value, transaction volume remains one-third lower (H1 2021 vs H1 2019).

Activity remains focused on large transactions and on the sectors least affected by the Covid-19 crisis. As a result, the average size of mid-market transactions was still high in Q2, greater than €120m.

Recovery in M&A activity was less pronounced in the mid-market than for very large transactions. Boosted by forecasts of rapid economic recovery and by the active acquisition policies of large groups, global M&A activity1 rose 13% in value in Q2 (vs Q1) to a record $1.5tn , and 50% in Europe to $293bn.

 

1 Source: Refinitiv in Reuters News, 01.07.2021

Graph 5 (1) – Eurozone mid-market activity (€15-500m) in volume and value
Source: Epsilon Research / MarketIQ
Graph 5 (2) – Average disclosed transaction size – M&A Eurozone Mid-Market
Source: Epsilon Research / MarketIQ
06

Of all regions in the eurozone, Benelux experienced the most active recovery in H1 mid-market M&A activity

The mid-cap M&A market recovered more in northern European countries, particularly Benelux, where the Covid-19 crisis was less disruptive than in southern Europe.

Graph 6 – Mid-market activity in principal eurozone countries
Source: Epsilon Research / MarketIQ

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