As private equity targets emerging companies, PE investors are expanding VC deal terms and dynamics.

By Mike Turner, Shing Lo, Tom Evans, Robbie McLaren, Farah O’Brien, David WalkerJon Fox, Katie Peek, and Catherine Campbell

Emerging companies have historically been backed by venture capital funds, but as Europe’s startup scene matures, involvement by more traditional private equity investors is growing, particularly in the tech, consumer, and digital health sectors. The number of PE investments in emerging companies has increased year on year, with investments in companies such as Wolt, Moonbug Entertainment, Zwift, Klarna, Epic Games, and Oatly demonstrating the range of opportunities available to PE sponsors in this space. While PE investors are increasingly familiar with VC deal dynamics, they are also pushing to align growth-deal terms more closely with traditional buyout concepts.

Pressure to put dry powder to work will likely lead to bigger and bolder PE transactions in the year to come.

By Manuel Deó

Spanish private equity (PE) houses are sitting on large piles of dry powder as they scour the Spanish market for investment opportunities, as is the case in much of Europe. According to Pitchbook, total deal value has decreased by 15.3% compared to the same period in 2017.

This dry powder will not simply disappear. The pressure to put that money to work will likely lead to bigger and bolder PE transactions in the year to come, as PE firms take on more ambitious targets across the country. PE firms will need to source more off-market deals and corporate carve-outs in 2019. These transactions will likely be more common in the next few months as PE firms continue to operate in a competitive sellers’ market.

Limited partners will put more pressure on PE firms to generate returns, inevitably leading to more headline-grabbing buyout attempts. The greater capital needs of larger deal sizes likely will fuel a revival of consortium deals, in which two or more sponsors pool their resources as co-investors. An uptick in consortium-led deals can be positive for corporate boards and senior management, because such deals widen the range of possible investor structures, and deepen the pool of accessible capital and expertise to enhance shareholder value.

By Chris Kandel

The European leveraged loan market is going from strength to strength, with a continuing surplus of available credit compared to deal requirements, resulting in very borrower-favourable terms. However, we are seeing signs of a two-tier market emerging, with strong demand and pricing reductions for deals perceived as stronger credits, alongside an increase in flex for some other credits. We are also seeing an increase in volatility. In our view, PE deal teams need to be aware of the recent market developments, which are impacting financing terms.

Developments in the Financing Market

The growth of the European institutional market is influencing credit availability for deals. 2017 European CLO issuances are at a new record, and alternative lenders continue to raise significant amounts. On the demand side, while refinancing volume has picked up, this does not offset the relative slowdown in the number of European leveraged acquisitions. Because the imbalance is most pronounced in Europe, Europeanleveraged loan pricing is cheaper than in the US, reaching a differential of 120 bps in October — the widest at any time in 2017 according to S&P Leveraged Commentary & Data (S&P).

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By Matthias Rubner, Denis Criton, Olivia Rauch-Ravise and Bénédicte Bremond

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President Macron recently unveiled employment and tax reforms to increase France’s appeal for deal makers. While France ranks highly as an investment destination for private equity firms, complex and inflexible French employment laws have been perceived as a hindrance — perpetuating the belief that France can be an unfriendly jurisdiction for businesses and investors. In our view, these reforms — which focus on employee termination, collective bargaining, and employee consultative bodies — will make doing business in France easier and, coupled with proposed tax reforms, should facilitate an even stronger French dealmaking environment.

France ranks just 31st in the World Bank’s 2017 Ease of Doing Business index — the Macron reforms aim to improve this.

Collective Bargaining and Employee Termination – Developments and Implications for Private Equity

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Rules on collective bargaining agreements, a key feature of the French labour market, are changing. Previously, French companies could not change employment terms with workers if such changes were less favourable to employees than the rules set by industry-level agreements. Under the reforms, employers can now agree to company-level deals with unions that will supersede industry-level rules. This allows PE owners more flexibility to tailor agreements that better align with their actual business needs.