Mid-market Argos Index® First quarter 2021

Acquisition prices of unlisted European SMEs reached a new high of 11.3x EBITDA,
buoyed by the prices paid by investment funds

Paris (France) – 19 May 2021 – Argos Wityu, an independent European investment fund, and Epsilon Research, the online platform for the management of unlisted M&A transactions, today published the Argos Mid-market Index® for the first quarter of 2021. This index, launched in 2006, tracks the valuations of eurozone private, mid-market companies in which a majority stake has been acquired during the last six months.

Acquisition prices of unlisted European SMEs reached a new record high.

Argos Index - Argos Wityu

Multiple median EV/EBITDA, 6-mo. rolling basis – Source: Mid-market Argos Index® / Epsilon Research

For the second consecutive quarter, the Argos Index® reached a record high, at 11.3x EBITDA. This came about because:
  • Investment funds paid significantly higher multiples, which reached a new high;
  • The eurozone looked set to return to growth, thanks to vaccination campaigns;
  • Long-term interest rates remained low, while equity markets continued to rise;
  • The composition of the index is such that nearly 50% of the transactions referenced in the first quarter were in the non-cyclical healthcare and technology sectors, which have high multiples and have been spared or even favored by the crisis.
Multiples paid by investment funds have risen very sharply.
  • They reached a new record high of 12.7x EBITDA, following the record set in the previous quarter and widening the spread with multiples paid by strategic buyers, which stood at 10.8x EBITDA.
  • Three factors are driving this increase: i) stiff competition from strategic buyers, ii) a continued rise in private equity investment, and iii) the low cost of acquisition debt (tied to central bank policy).
  • Compared with strategic buyers, the multiples paid by investment funds were more homogeneous (standard deviation of 25% vs 40%) as were the profiles of the companies acquired (high-quality companies relatively unaffected by the crisis vs opportunistic acquisitions at lower valuations).
Nearly 16% of transactions were closed at multiples in excess of 15x EBITDA.
Large listed companies remained very active
  • They represented nearly 75% of strategic buyers in the mid-market.
  • They benefited from the continued rise in equity markets.
  • Their acquisition multiples reached a new record of 10.1x EBITDA.
The eurozone’s mid-market M&A segment advanced in value but declined in volume.
  • Compared with the previous quarter, the value of transactions increased by 18% but the number of transactions declined by 20%.
  • This contrast has been evident since mid-2020, when the average transaction size embarked on a continuous rise, reaching €138m in Q1 2021.
The Benelux was the most active eurozone region for M&A activity
  • The Benelux has become the most active eurozone region, with 26% of the number of SME acquisitions, surpassing Germany.

Argos Wityu

Coralie Cornet
Head of Communications
+33 6 14 38 33 37

About Argos Wityu / www.argos.wityu.fund
Argos Wityu is an independent European investment fund that supports companies in the transfer of business ownership. It has assisted more than 80 entrepreneurs, focusing its investment strategy on complex transactions with emphasis on transformation, growth, and close collaboration with management teams. Argos Wityu seeks to acquire majority interests and invest between €10m and €100m with each transaction. With more than €1bn under management and 30 years of experience, Argos Wityu operates from offices in Brussels, Frankfurt, Geneva, Luxembourg, Milan and Paris.

Epsilon Research developed the first online platform for the management of non-quoted M&A transactions, aimed at M&A professionals. The Epsilon platform includes data, analysis reports, software and services essential for private company valuation / deal management: EMAT, the largest database of European private company transaction multiples, with detailed analysis of 8,000 M&A deals, ranging from €1m to €500m in value, covering all industry sectors; indices and studies published regularly by Epsilon, including the Argos Index; cloud-based software for managing M&A contacts and projects; valuation of comparable private equity fund investments.

The Mid-market Argos Index® tracks the valuation of unlisted mid-market companies in the eurozone. Carried out by Argos Wityu and Epsilon Research and published every three months, it reflects median EV/EBITDA multiples, on a six-month rolling basis, of transactions meeting the following criteria: mid-market (equity value between €15m and €500m for 100%), target based in a eurozone country, acquisition of a majority stake, certain activities excluded (financial services, real estate, high-tech).

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