The M&A market in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) had a robust 2019 year, displaying resilience in the face of global economic headwinds, according to new research from Mazars in association with Mergermarket. The report, Investing in CEE: Inbound M&A Report 2019/2020, offers an overview of inbound M&A activity in the CEE region throughout 2019 and looks ahead to the opportunities and challenges in the coming months, notably in the context of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Location is a clear competitive advantage, with the more developed economies of Western Europe on one side, and the fast-growing markets of Asia and the Middle East on the other. For many investors, the region brings some of the benefits of both.
Michel Kiviatkowski CEE Leader of Financial Advisory Services at Mazars, Managing Partner of Mazars in Poland
The region is attractive for investors thanks to its unique combination of competitive advantages: a strategic location bridging western Europe with Asia and the Middle-East, a strong pool of talent, relatively low costs compared to more developed markets and a growing middle class.
CEE’s economy continued to move forward at a healthy pace in 2019, despite global economic headwinds such as the trade war between the US and China, an inversion in the US bond yield curve and a slowdown in Eurozone’s economies.
The four main factors influencing transactional activity in the region were: the strong international appetite from strategic buyers to invest in CEE, the increasing Private Equity interest for the region, succession planning and market consolidation in a few sectors.
The total value of the M&A market registered in 2019 amounted €42.3 billion, with a total number of 726 deals.
Meanwhile, median EV/EBITDA multiples rose from 6.74x in 2018 to 7.81x in 2019 (compared to 10.91x in Western Europe).
Private Equity activity in CEE continued to develop, with a total of 69 PE buyouts deals in 2019 (€2.9 billion). PE exits were registered at 59 in 2019, with a disclosed total transaction value amounting €6.5 billion. International PE players were mainly involved in larger transactions, whereas local PE firms tended to focus more on small and mid-sized transactions.
Inbound M&A deals involving strategic and financial investors coming from outside the CEE counted for 40% of CEE M&A deal volume and 51% of CEE M&A deal value.
International buyers were coming mainly from Western Europe, the USA and Asia.
The external shock of the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak is highly likely to have a substantial impact on CEE’s economies and its M&A market in 2020, as it will across the world. An economic slowdown was already expected in Europe, even before the current crisis exacerbated the matter. Nonetheless, the M&A market in the CEE is relatively well-positioned to weather the crisis, in comparison to other emerging market regions.
Once a semblance of normalcy returns, the CEE’s strong fundamentals will contribute to ensure that Central & Eastern Europe will remain attractive to investors.
CEE M&A IN NUMBERS
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Mergers and acquisitions are inherently complex – whether it is cross-border legal quandaries, human resource issues or the tricky business of valuations – the procedure can be tough but also promises plenty of reward. Where the transaction takes place will have a central role in how all of this plays out. In our recent ‘Investing in CEE: Inbound M&A Report 2019/2020’, we found that CEE countries continue to be viewed as enviable places to do business.