Marketing Tech M&A Soars, Despite Stock Market And Venture Capital Angst

M&AMergers and acquisitions (M&A) are thriving in the red-hot technology industry, particularly in the United States, according to a spate of research reports released Thursday.

In many pockets of the industry, there are fewer deals but the value of those deals has skyrocketed.

The investment bank JEGI said the number of transactions in the database and information services space, for example, has dropped since 2014. But deal values are up 40%, indicating an increased competition to acquire automation technology and digital media.

Mergermarket research found the number of tech industry transactions down by about 20%, but the total amount spent grew from $224 billion to $272 billion.

This level of M&A activity has not been seen “since the pre‐recession period in 2007,” according to JEGI’s market report.

Mergermarket found sales across the technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) sectors through the first three quarters of 2015 to be unmatched since it started recording the data in 2001. The $534.2 billion that has flowed into TMT so far in 2015 exceeds the total of every full calendar year on record except 2006, when overall M&A reached $600.9 billion.

This glowing M&A research provides a counterweight for some of the pessimism plaguing media and marketing companies, which have faced a brutal year in the public market and concerns over VC funds drying up.

Much of the gloomy coverage is associated with an “arbitrary silliness about unicorns,” said Tolman Geffs, co-president of JEGI. He compared it to a classroom “where the cool kids get all the attention,” but most of the students are working with their heads down.

That sentiment is underscored by Mergermarket’s data, which shows the five highest-value deals originating in the telecommunications sector, including the acquisitions of Time Warner, Broadcom and Cablevision. But despite telcos representing the biggest individual sales, the tech sector accounted for $76 billion more in actual market expenditures.

The convergence of ad tech and mar tech – “combining automation with first-party CRM data” – means there is a wider span of interested parties bidding in the sector, Geffs said. He cited enterprise tech, media companies, agencies and telcos as examples of established players that need to build tech stacks and develop expertise.

It isn’t all good news, though.

There appears to be a drop-off in how investors value media and marketing companies, according to the Q3 media report from the investment bank Berkery Noyes. After steady growth from 2012 to 2014, the revenue multiple for companies in the space has dropped 15% this year, and the EBITDA multiple, a metric used by investors, has decreased by 18%.

Mergermarket also shows China representing more than 11% of global M&A activity among TMT companies. And though the report stresses that the sector is insulated from volatility in the Chinese stock market, which will impact commodities more than tech and media, Chinese economic turmoil would have severe implications.

“We remain wary of … potential fallout from the economic state in China,” JEGI researchers warned.

Still, the money pouring into tech represents an expansion, Geffs said, and not consolidation. He pointed to the particularly strong showing among conference, event and trade show companies as an indicator of the growing market for tech expertise.

“There’s an enormous need,” he said, “for people who provide the tools for marketing automation.”

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