The Asia Pacific region was the second most active region after North America in terms of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) buyers and targets in the third quarter, making it the most active quarter for three years.
This saw Japan being the most active country within APAC in terms of both targets with 13 transactions and 20 buyers, while China saw significant deals such as the US$337 million acquisition of out-of-home advertising group Mega-info Media by Luenmei Quantum.
Meanwhile, North America was again the most active country in Q3 in terms of targets with 105 deals, a 21% increase from Q2. The UK also remained stable, maintaining a constant level of target and buyer activity over the last year.
In the agency space, Dentsu and WPP have come up top as the most active buyers in the marcomms industry in terms of M&A activity, both completing five deals in the third quarter of this year. This was according to a recent Research International report, which revealed a total of 237 M&A deals completed in the marcomms industry in Q3 2018, highest since Q4 2016.
The report added that the move suggests that WPP is “still pursuing an acquisition strategy” despite its recent shift in focus to internal restructuring. This was seen in the merger of VML and Y&R and the divestment of minority holdings such as AppNexus.
According to Julie Langley, partner at Research International, although S4’s acquisition of MediaMonks got a lot of the headlines this quarter, it was “far from the only deal of note”. Another acquisition to note is IPG’s acquisition of Axciom Marketing Solutions for US$2.3 billion, which confirms its willingness to move forward as a standalone company.
Meanwhile, Salesforce’s acquisition of Datorama for estimated $800 million highlights the direction marketing cloud-based platforms are heading. This is providing brands with the ability to analyse their data more quickly across all channels and take near real-time decisions on how best to engage consumers.”
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For management consultancies, M&A activity has slowed following slowdowns in Q2 after an active buying spree in Q1. This Q3, Accenture only made just one acquisition, although Deloitte also acquired Magnetic Media, an AI marketing solutions business.
“This is most likely a brief period of consolidation and integration rather than a trend, as many of the key players are still looking to M&A as a way to broaden their strategic offering,” the report added.
Full service digital was also the most active subsector in third quarter with 31 deals, with an increase in the amount of vertical specialist agencies being acquired. The study saw the number of healthcare agencies being acquired rising to 12 transactions, moving from 19th place last quarter to ninth place in Q3.
Examples include Huntsworth acquiring two healthcare agencies, Navience Healthcare Solutions for $24 million, with a two-year deferred consideration of $40 million, and Giant Creative Strategy, a large independent healthcare agency, for $72.2 million.
Five acquisitions within sports marketing were also made this past quarter, matching the total number in H1 2018. Listed gaming agency Keywords Studio has become a more active buyer within the marcoms space, buying two gaming marketing agencies in Q2 and three in Q3.
The third quarter of the year also saw 21 deals in UX and design and build and 20 deals in media. This included major deals such as US-based Boston Omaha buying two out-of-home marketing agencies based in the USA, Watt Outdoor for $82 million and Key Outdoor for $38 million, plus British radio agency Global Radio UK acquiring Outdoor Plus from Inflexion and Primesight from GMT Communications.
A “continuing resurgence” in media is also being observed, particularly in out-of-home, following significant deals from likes of JCDecaux/APN and oOh!media/Adshel in the previous quarter.
“Some of the traditional media formats have been re-energised by digital and location-based technology and a number of buyers are looking to acquire that expertise,” Langley said.
There were also 49 private-equity backed deals in Q3, bringing the total number of private equity transactions to 138 this year, a record since 2014.
The report foresees private equity money to continue pouring into marcoms and martech following a number of successful exits from PE backed marketing companies. This is seen in Adobe acquiring Marketo, a B2B marketing applications provider from Vista Equity for $4.75 billion.
“Looking forward, we’d expect the big consultancies to come back into the market and fight with both the networks and the raft of new buyers for the best assets,” Langley said.