Q1 M&A Trade Show Deal Value Drops 38 Percent After Year-end Surge

April 4, 2013

After a busy end to 2012, this year started off a little slower in the M&A exhibitions and conferences market, with 16 deals valued at $168 million in the first quarter, compared with 15 deals valued at $263 million during Q1 last year, signaling a 38-percent drop in value.

The overall media, information, marketing services and technology sectors also tracked down in Q1 this year to 353 deals valued at $7.5 billion, compared with 374 deals valued at $12.2 billion in the first quarter of 2012, also a 38-percent decrease, according to The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc.’s M&A Overview.

“While the number of deals in the exhibitions and conferences sector increased in Q1-13 vs. Q1-12, value for the sector declined 38 percent - exactly in line with the broader market decline in M&A value,” said Richard Mead, JEGI’s managing director.

He added, “The overall market slowed in Q1-13, due to the strong run of M&A deals in the second half of 2012, as expected increases to the capital gains tax rate in 2013 pushed many sellers to complete their deals before year-end.”

Some of those deals included Tarsus Group’s acquisition of Turkish Organizer CYF Fuarcilik A.S. in October, George Little Management acquired Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in November, Penton Media bought the Farm Progress portfolio and Advanstar Communications purchased ENK International, also in November, to name a few.

Captial gains taxes jumped from 15 percent in 2012 to 20 percent at the beginning of this year.

Even with the dip of deal values in the exhibitions and conferences market in the first quarter of 2013, Mead said there were brighter times ahead.

“Deal values are expected to rebound throughout the rest of the year, especially in the exhibitions and conferences market, which should see several $100-plus million deals, including the Nielsen’s divestiture of its exhibitions business,” he added.

The U.S. is one of the go-to markets for deals right now, Mead said, adding, “Both large and mid-sized event businesses are acquiring in global markets, especially high-growth markets like Brazil and Asia. We also see activity in Australia and Africa is quickly coming online as a hot area for growth.”

Europe, however, is a slowing market, Mead said.

Besides major companies such as Reed Exhibitions, UBM, Tarsus Group and a few others, there also are private equity players in the market looking to invest in the exhibitions and conferences sector.

“The exhibitions and conferences market provides certain key dynamics not found in any other industry, such as high EBITDA margins, excellent visibility on revenue, strong cash flow, little to no capex, significant barriers to entry, strong buyer pool, the opportunity to create online communities, etc.,” Mead said of why PE firms are interested in this market.

He added, “The key variable is size, as there are few exhibition platforms of scale in the market and this can create challenges for senior debt financing on exhibition deals.”

Going forward into 2013, Mead said, “Besides Nielsen, we expect to see at least one other $100-plus million deal in the sector in 2013, and at least 3 to 5 $50-plus million deals. The majority will be below $50 million in enterprise value, as there are few platforms of size in the exhibitions space.”

Some first-quarter 2013 deals that were tracked by JEGI included Post Capital Partners’ acquisition of corporate event planning and management firm TBA Global; Nielsen Expositions’ acquisition of Tailgating Industry Association, a premier trade event dedicated to sports licensing and tailgating products; and IMG Arts and Entertainment’s acquisition of Taste Festivals, organizer of food events, including Taste of London and The Big Feastival, for $7.7 million.

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