M&A in Asia Pacific's professional services industry drops by one fifth

01 August 2018 Consultancy.asia

According to newly released data from specialist M&A advisory Equiteq, merger and acquisition activity in the Asia Pacific professional services sector has dropped by nearly 20 percent in the first half of the year on 2017 H1 figures, with the regional results reflecting ongoing global trends.

In its first half M&A ‘Knowledge Economy’ report for 2018, Equiteq, a specialist M&A and strategic advisory for the tech and professional services sectors, has outlined the global downturn in deal-making on last year’s results, with the professional services M&A market contracting by 5 percent worldwide. For the Asia Pacific, the drop in volume stands at 19 percent – the greatest of any region.

Altogether, the Asia Pacific witnessed 87 knowledge economy deals to July, with the 568 deals in North America and the 454 closed in Europe also down by 3 and 5 percent. But while activity has slowed in the comparative year-on-year figures, the median global deal price has risen to $13.6 million, with the report summarising: “Buyers appeared to be focused on a smaller number of larger deals.”

M&A in the consulting industry (H1 2018)

The first half results are in line with a trending recent decline in global activity, with deal volume down over the past two years, including an overall drop of 5 percent for the whole of 2017 (although it should be noted that the first half of 2017 was stronger than H2). Numbers wise, the 2,669 deals recorded worldwide in 2015 fell to 2,502 in 2017, and stand at 1,181 for the first half of this year. Over this period, the Asia Pacific has dropped from 246 in 2015 to just the 87 so far this year.

Equiteq’s M&A ‘Knowledge Economy’ benchmark reports focus in on five specific segments of the knowledge-intensive professional services sector, namely management consulting, information technology consulting, media agencies, engineering advisory services, and human resources, with management (300 deals) and IT consulting (375) continuing in H1 2018 as the largest deal flow segments across the industry and human resources (151 – up 7%) and media agencies (275 – up 3%) demonstrating the strongest growth.

M&A in the knowledge economy by region

Also of note for the Asia Pacific is the region’s ongoing status as the world’s leading hub for cross-border deals – a category accounting for 24 percent of all global deals in the first half of the year, and 29 percent of the Asia Pacific closures in 2017. Stand-out sector deals for the region so far this year include the cross-border acquisitions of Singapore IT services provider Axentel by the US-based Park Place Technologies – with the sell-side advised on by Equiteq – and Accenture’s pick up of Chinese full-service digital marketing agency HO Communication.

With respect to Equiteq’s role as an sell-side advisor to Axentel, the IT firm’s founder Jerry Yiu said at the time; “While joining Park Place looked from the outset like the perfect strategic move for us to make, there were quite a few complex issues that had to be addressed. Throughout the process, the Equiteq team have done a great job at preparing us, assisting us and ironing out all difficulties as they arose. I am sincerely grateful to them for having made this deal possible.”

Deloitte and KPMG make risk and insolvency acquisitions in Australia

15 March 2019 Consultancy.asia

Two of the Big Four have made purchases in Australia, with Deloitte acquiring Sydney-based risk consultants Converging Data Australia, and KPMG picking up insolvency outfit Ferrier Hodgson.

Global professional services leader Deloitte has boosted its cyber analytics capabilities through the acquisition of boutique Sydney-based risk consultancy Converging Data Australia, with the company’s co-founder and team to join Deloitte’s Risk Advisory practice. Not to be outshone, Big Four rival KPMG has made its own purchase, set to merge with leading Australian insolvency firm Ferrier Hodgson.

A leading partner in the Asia Pacific for the Splunk platform, which collects and analyses high volumes of machine-generated data for cyber security and monitoring, Converging Data Australia was founded by former UK NHS employees Stuart Hirst and Neil Murphy, and serves public and private sector clients in the financial services, healthcare and supply-chain industries across Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

“Working in the areas of security, operational intelligence, and data analytics, as well as digital and IoT innovation, the Converging Data team will bring its deep domain expertise to help our clients keep pace with the continually evolving technology risk landscape,” said Deloitte’s Managing Partner for Risk Advisory, Dennis Krallis. “They will enhance and complement our existing investments in the design, build and running of bespoke Cyber Security Intelligence Operations Centres for clients.”

While Murphy continues to oversee the EMEA business of Converging Data, his co-founder Hirst has joined Deloitte as a partner in the firm’s Risk Advisory practice. “We developed our DataPaaS solution to help clients rapidly scale and optimise Splunk tools and are looking forward to combining it with Deloitte’s global team of more than 300 Splunk professionals to help more Australian businesses benefit from the insights and benefits Splunk software can bring,” Hirst said of the sale.Deloitte and KPMG make risk and insolvency acquisitions in Australia Meanwhile, fellow Big Four firm KPMG has made finalised a merger deal with Australian insolvency firm Ferrier Hodgson – with KPMG’s WA Chairman and national Restructuring Services leader Matthew Woods having reportedly informed staff of the acquisition alongside Ferrier Hodgson managing partner James Stewart. According to earlier coverage, the deal comes after months of haggling and negotiation, although no sums have been revealed.

Founded more than 40 years ago in 1976, the Sydney-headquartered Ferrier Hodgson has grown to become one of the largest specialist corporate turnaround and insolvency management firms in the Asia Pacific, with eight offices across Australia, Malaysia and Singapore and a headcount in excess of 300. As per the deal, KPMG has acquired Ferrier Hodgson’s Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth branches, with discussions with its Adelaide arm said to be well advanced.

It is still unclear how many of Ferrier Hodgson specialists will join KPMG, but the newly combined insolvency and turnaround team – to be co-led by Stewart and Woods – will feature a staff of 200-plus including 20 Ferrier Hodgson partners and 27 in total – creating one of the largest and most experienced such practices in Australia. According to the firm’s, the deal is expected to completed in June, with a dual integration committee already in place.

“We are excited about the opportunity to merge with KPMG,” said Stewart, who has been with Ferrier Hodgson for more than 30 years. “Strategically, the merger gives our team immediate access to a diverse range of skill-sets to better engineer operational turnaround and add a lot more value to clients. We believe our clients will benefit from the greater breadth of solutions available to them, and our shared values and cultural fit will ensure a smooth integration into KPMG for our people.”

“The Ferrier Hodgson team is very experienced, with a great reputation, and we are delighted to be welcoming them to the firm,” KPMG Australia’s CEO Gary Wingrove said in response. “The rationale for a merger was compelling, with KPMG and Ferrier Hodgson a great fit strategically and culturally. The combination of our operations with Ferrier Hodgson will immediately and significantly strengthen the breadth and level of service we can offer our clients in the restructuring and forensic advisory sphere.”

Related: EY acquires Australian SAP consultancy Plaut IT and Malaysian subsidiary