Article

TMT remains key investment in a remote society

Andy Morgan Andy Morgan

Our technology, media and telecoms (TMT) team remains one of the most-active advisors to UK technology businesses.

We completed over 100 transactions last year, helping a range of clients covering entrepreneurs and owner-managers, to private equity-backed and listed, and global TMT businesses, helping them achieve their strategic ambitions.

A snapshot of our TMT deals in 2020

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Discover our key successes in the sector

The appetite for technology assets remains very strong. The M&A market for TMT has recovered strongly in the second half of 2020, following a brief hiatus in the second quarter, as businesses and investors took stock of the impact of the various lockdown restrictions and handled the challenge of the dramatic shift to remote and agile working.

We were proud to support numerous clients with short-term engagements over this period, including capital raising, accessing government support programmes, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), and modelling the range of alternate trading scenarios in a period of significant uncertainty.

The pick-up in deal activity across the technology sector since June 2020 has been dramatic. Valuation multiples were moving upwards, as the robustness of recurring revenue and subscription models, and strong demand in large areas of both enterprise and consumer TMT markets showed their worth.

A selection of the hot areas of deal activity that kept our M&A and deal teams incredibly busy were:

  • edtech - including the sale of iSAMS to IRIS
  • digital transformation - including the sale of Aker Systems to LDC
  • fintech - including the sale of VIPR to Tenzing.

TMT provides consistent value

Over the past few years, the ‘average’ technology business has grown recurring revenue, created better self-service products and become more-deeply embedded in business-critical workflows, creating conditions that allow technology to not only survive, but to thrive in any environment.

Like others, we see this technical revolution directly in our own business. We are keen users of Microsoft Teams, DocuSign and many other remote-focused products. Indeed, in 2020 we started and finished several transactions that were conducted entirely remotely.

Looking ahead into 2021, we expect TMT will continue to be the leading light within the wider M&A environment. We think three key themes will be particularly important in the next 12 months:

1 Greater carve-out activity

Boards everywhere are pressured to unlock hidden value, and we expect more will take the decision to divest non-core assets.

2 A greater role for PE-backed platforms

High levels of uncommitted capital, alongside the growth of private equity-backed (PE) consolidators, mean that PE provides an attractive option in the majority of sale processes.

We expect this to remain a key driver of deal activity in 2021, providing optionality for owner-managers looking for an exit, with opportunities to de-risk, transition management responsibilities, accelerate growth and continue to share in future upside.

3 Increased public market activity 

Capital markets appetite for technology assets remains very strong. 

We expect to see a step up in IPO activity in 2021 for the right quality and scale of businesses. At the same time, the public markets will remain an attractive feeding ground for trade and PE consolidators, with some high-quality listed technology businesses continuing to trade at lower multiples than their sub-sector M&A average.

Should this persist, trade and PE will no doubt step in to seek to unlock shareholder value.

Greater interest in UK assets from international acquirors

2020 finished by providing greater certainty over the impact of Brexit. Recognition of the UK’s deep technical capability and engineering talent, alongside lower currency and regulatory risk, are likely to drive renewed interest in UK assets from acquirors that have partially sat on the sidelines since the Brexit vote in 2016.

The future for the UK TMT sector is bright. While the recovery won't be linear, the options open to high-growth businesses in the sector with strong and ambitious management teams have never been better.

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Our key successes in the sector

November 2020

Force24 Limited

Series A fundraise and partial share sale funded by YFM Equity Partners

Marketing automation

September 2020

iSAMS Limited

Sale to IRIS software group

Global school management information system

September 2020

VIPR Limited

Disposal of VIPR Limited to Tenzing

Software provider to the insurance market

September 2020

Aker Systems Limited

Sale to Lloyds Development Capital and Management

TMT

June 2020

Totalmobile Limited

Integration Planning for the simultaneous acquisitions of Lone Worker Solutions and Global Rostering Solutions

Technology - TMT

May 2020

UltraSoc Technologies Limited

Sale of UltraSoc Technologies Limited to Siemens Inc

TMT

March 2020

LDC/James and James Fulfilment Limited

LDC investment in James and James Fulfilment Limited

Provider of e-fulfilment services

February 2020

Hargreaves Lansdown Plc

Sale of FundsLibrary to Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc

Provider of fund data and regulatory solutions to the investment industry

February 2020

Exponential-e Limited

Aquisition of Vysiion Limited

Technology and telecoms

January 2020

Emperor Design

Sale of majority stake to employee ownership trust

Advertising and marketing services