Since 2005, East Asian investors have carried out almost 200 acquisitions in the Nordic countries. An activity that has intensified in 2014 and has remained on a high levels since.
The acquisitions have been distributed among all the Nordic countries, but with a slight majority of transactions completed in Norway and Sweden. Chinese and Japanese investors have been involved in more than half of the transactions. The great majority of the buyers are strategic buyers, meaning that they are active in the same industry as the company they’re acquiring.
Focus on the IT and industrial sectors
Industrial companies are the most frequent targets in transactions involving East Asian investors, as much as 30 in the Nordic countries since 2014. Other industries that have attracted substantial interest are the software and IT/tele sector, with 17 and 10 completed acquisitions respectively.
Smaller targets are also attracting interest
The target companies’ enterprise values have been disclosed in 58 of the almost 100 acquisitions that have been completed since 2014. In over 50% of these transactions, the enterprise value was below EUR 100 million.
What is the driver behind East Asian acquisitions of Nordic industrial companies?
Naturally, there are as many drivers as there are transactions, but there are some general factors that characterise Asian buyers of Nordic companies.
From January 2016 until July 2017, 15 acquisitions of Nordic industrial companies by East Asian buyers were announced. The investors were of strategic nature in all of these transactions, but also typically shared a couple of additional characteristics with the target companies. In no particular order, below is a list of the main reasons for the acquisitions, according to the buyers themselves.
Broaden the product range
The target company has a product portfolio that the buyer wants to benefit from.
Strengthening the global presence
The buyer wants to strengthen or establish contacts with new customers, suppliers or other stakeholders in Europe and the Nordic countries.
Synergy effects and economies of scale
The buyer sees potential economies of scale in manufacturing and procurement.
The buyer is interested in technology, patents and inherent knowledge in the target company.
Case study: The Swedish camera manufacturer Hasselblad has been acquired by a Chinese drone manufacturer.
Victor Hasselblad Ltd has been making cameras since the 1940’s and is one of the leading camera and optics companies in the world. In the last few years, the company has experienced stagnating growth and low profitability. In the autumn of 2015 Hasselblad was acquired by the Chinese company DJI who makes drones for the consumer market. The purpose of the acquisition was to combine the technical knowledge of both companies.
Do East Asian buyers pay more?
Nordic target company – East Asian buyers
Amongst the acquisitions made since 2014, where the target company has been from one of the Nordic countries and the buyer from East Asia, the EV/Revenue multiple has been disclosed in 40 cases.
The median EV/Revenue multiple of these disclosed cases was 1.92x. In other words, the typical enterprise value was 1.92 times higher than the turnover.
Nordic target company – Nordic buyer
Amongst the acquisitions made since 2014 where both the target company and the buyer are from a Nordic country, the EV/Revenue multiple has been disclosed in 450 cases.
The median EV/Revenue multiple of these is 1.14x. In other words, the typical enterprise value was 1.14 times higher than the turnover.
As the selection of transactions with Asian buyers is relatively small, it is hard to draw any conclusions based on the available information. Furthermore, profitability should also be taken into account alongside the EV/Revenue multiple when performing a valuation of a company. However, the difference between the multiples as earlier discussed is quite substantial depending on the country of origin of the buyer. This could indicate that there is a difference between the Nordic and East Asian buyers in terms of value expectations.