Look both ways – 2015 review and 2016 plans

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Clearwater International completed 65 deals worth over €3.2 billion in 2015 – activity which saw the company’s average deal value nearly double from 2014.

In a year where the business completed an unprecedented 17 deals in 10 weeks, all territories and sectors experienced exceptional levels of M&A activity.

For the second year running, the Industrials & Chemicals team was the most active in deal completions with 16 deals including the sale of Gledhill to €1bn-turnover Groupe Atlantic and the MBO of York Mailing Group backed in an innovative funding structure by Pricoa Capital Group – deals which highlight the ongoing interest from both overseas buyers and alternative funders in quality UK assets. The keynote deal of the year was the sale of HL Plastics (HLP) to Quanex Building Products Corporation for €128m, another cross-border sale to a US buyer.

2015 also saw a large number of deals with private equity (PE) involvement: some notable transactions included HgCapital’s acquisition of Zitcom, the secondary buyouts of both Partner in Pet Food and Ideal Shopping – to Pamplona and Blackstone respectively – and the sale of online retailer Wool Overs to Langholm Capital. Clearwater International also launched, in association with unquote”, bespoke analysis of the multiples being paid by PE for businesses across Europe – helping to identify the most value-for-money investment opportunities, research that will be updated on a quarterly basis. The PE market looks to go into 2016 in a continued acquisitive mood.

The business saw further strong levels of activity from its debt advisory practice, which increased the number of deals structured with debt. With non-bank lenders continuing to raise ever larger investment funds, there is now a strong level of liquidity available to mid-market corporates and the competition in Europe between banks and debt funds looks set to continue in 2016.

Clearwater International’s deal levels were matched by activity to extend the business, including the addition of an office in Dublin and heavy investment into relationships in the US and Asia. With a key focus on continued development of a strong European hub, a high priority has been placed on expanding into Germany and France within the next 12 months.

Finally, the team continued to grow: for example, there were three new senior members added to the UK team – James Barraclough, Dominic Bolton and James Sinclair. The three are responsible for heading up Clearwater’s cross-border sector teams in financial services, media and food & beverage respectively. Clearwater’s commitment to graduate recruitment also continued across all geographies with the arrival of both interns and graduates.

Michael Reeves, CEO of Clearwater International, said: “2015 has been a tremendous year for Clearwater International and our clients, with our deals volumes increasing 20% in the last year. We’re excited about our upcoming developments in Europe which will further expand our abilities to introduce our clients to strong international opportunities.“