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Dealmakers: Steve Monnington reviews the deals of 2021

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Steve Monnington of Mayfield Merger Strategies reviews the deals of 2021. 


The M&A market remained subdued in 2021 although transaction rates picked up in the last quarter. 2020 showed a significant drop in the number of transactions from the usual 70 to 80 down to 41 and, with a full 12 months Covid-19 effect there were 254 different buyers prepared to invest.

Tarsus and Emerald were the busiest in terms of the number of transactions. While Emerald continues to focus solely on the USA, Tarsus picked up businesses in USA, China and Mexico. Blackstone scooped the award for the largest transaction with the acquisition of International Data Group for an enterprise value of $1.3 billion.
The USA continued to lead the way as the busiest M&A market with 15 of the 39 transactions.

Continued support of private equity
Clearly, the exit timetables for the more established exhibition investments such as Blackstone/Clarion and Providence/CloserStill Media will have been put back a few years given how 2020 and 2021 disrupted their profits but they remained supportive. The PE firms that were newer to the exhibition sector also weren’t put off. Apiary Capital backed Roar B2B with the acquisition of a large part of the Prysm portfolio at the end of 2019 and didn’t run their first event until September 2021. However this didn’t stop them making a further acquisition – the Environment Media Group, organiser of Let’s Recycle Live – in August 2021.
The pandemic also didn’t stop Simon Foster’s new company, Arc, from attracting investment from EagleTree Capital and Canson Capital Partners, unusually before they had even found their first acquisition. Two deals followed – both in the agriculture sector – Farmers Guardian and Lamma from the AgriBriefing portfolio and Farm Business Innovation acquired from Prysm.

Focus on different event models
2021 saw the acquisition by Hyve of 121 Group (one to one events for mining investment), and Clarion acquire Consero Group (in-person and digital one to one forums and boardroom-style roundtables) and CloserStill Media invest in Influence Group (invite-only forums, one to one meetings and virtual roundtables).

Non-core disposals
I am surprised that the pandemic hasn’t made the larger organisers look more closely at disposing of parts of their portfolio. Clarion moved their South Africa business into the ownership of the management with the newly created Vuka Group while Hyve sold their Kazakhstan business completing their exit from the former CIS, having sold their Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan portfolios in 2020. I’m sure we will see more organisers rationalising their portfolios this year.

There were seven transactions in December – a clear sign that M&A activity is starting to get back to previous levels.
Tarsus acquired two health event businesses. FounderMade runs Discovery Show East and West – events focused on wellness, beauty and health for innovative and emerging brands to connect with retailers, solutions and investors. Health Connect Partners delivers events in five sectors across the acute care hospital market – pharmacy, supply chain, IT, radiology and surgical. Both businesses created a strong online presence during the pandemic and will be part of a newly formed Tarsus Health division which will cover the healthcare, wellness and nutrition industries.
Reed acquired 3rd Street Group, organiser of Big Data London, the UK’s largest big data and analytics conference and exhibition.
Informa has invested in Totem, an event tech company which has developed a virtual/hybrid events platform amongst its portfolio of digital event solutions. Prior to the investment, Totem and Informa Connect worked together on the launch of ConnectMe, a platform of digital features and apps to enhance the experience of connecting and learning at in-person events.
Informa Markets’ South Florida Ventures acquired Premiere Orlando, the US’s largest beauty show, together with sister shows, Premiere Birmingham and Premiere Columbus.
Emerald Expositions moved into the cannabis sector, currently one of the highest growth sectors in the USA, paying an initial US$120m for MJBiz – the leading cannabis event producer and content platform. MJBizCon has around 1,200 exhibitors and 27,000 visitors.
CloserStill Media invested in US based Influence Group, a series of invite-only forums, meetings and networking formats, supported by virtual roundtables and custom content. This is a first move outside their usual model of larger scale content driven exhibitions and also represents a move into a number of new sectors including retail, senior living, food service, hospitality, and education

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