M&A wrap: Barings, Portfolia Rising America, MiLa Capital, Rockpoint, Apax, Vista, iCapital, Owl Rock


As transactions previously delayed due to the pandemic begin to pick up, acquirors and investors in the middle market should evaluate the target’s performance during the unprecedented disruption presented by the pandemic, and adjust expectations for the immediate and medium term. Supplemental due diligence is not only prudent — it is likely to be required as a condition to the placement of any representations and warranties insurance. Essential considerations include whether the target has been able to innovate and whether the valuation agreed to in a letter of intent should be revisited. Buyers should also review any termination provisions to determine whether any breakup fee would be payable. See our full coverage: 11 factors for dealmakers to consider before buying a company during the pandemic.

Portfolia Rising America Fund “invests directly in early and growth-stage companies in the U.S. led by people of color and/or LGBTQ founders, or products and services that cater to these markets,” says investment partner Lorine Pendleton in a Q&A with Mergers & Acquisitions. “These are founders, ecosystems, products and services historically overlooked by traditional venture capitalists but positioned for significant growth and profitability.” The firm is led by five women of color. In addition to Pendleton, the firm’s leaders are: Noramay Cadena, co-founder and managing partner of MiLA Capital; Daphne Dufresne, a managing partner of GenNx 360 Capital Partners; Juliana Garaizar, an angel investor; and Karen Kerr, executive managing director at GE Ventures. “We believe that strength lies in differences and seek out entrepreneurs and startups who are using shifting demographics and their own diversity of experience and thought to create innovation that offers outsized opportunities for returns and impact.” The fund had its first close earlier in 2020 and has made two investments to date: The first investment is in MoCaFi, a fintech startup founded by Wole Coaxum, a former JPMorgan Chase commercial banking executive and entrepreneur, who is African American. “MoCaFi offers a mobile-first banking platform that brings digital banking products to underbanked or unbanked communities (an 88 million U.S. market), allowing them to build credit and financial mobility,” Pendleton explains. The second investment is in a women’s tele-medicine network. For more, read the full interview: Led by 5 women of color, Portfolia Rising America Fund backs mobile banking and women’s telemedicine startups.

“As stewards of capital we have an outsized role in determining which businesses to support,” says Mina Pacheco Nazemi of Barings Alternative Investments. “As asset allocators, we need to hold ourselves accountable. I can do more. Will you join me?” Dealmakers begin to weigh in, as Gerge Floyd’s death sparked two weeks of Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Read the story: “Justice doesn’t just happen. It requires action, dedication and accountability,” says one private equity investor.

DEAL NEWS
Real estate investment firm Rockpoint Group has raised two funds, totaling $5.8 billion, to take advantage of distressed opportunities. “We are excited to pursue what we expect will be attractive real estate investments in our target U.S. markets,” say Rockpoint co-founders Bill Walton and Keith Gelb.

Apax Digital Fund, the technology-focused growth equity fund of Apax Partners, is leading a $100 million investment in Payfone, a software and data analytics company focused on digital identity verification and authentication. Sandbox Insurtech Ventures and Ralph de la Vega, the former vice chairman of AT&T (NYSE: T), are also investing alongside Apax.

Vista Equity-backed Acceleya is buying airline technology company Farelogix. The acquisition will expand Acceleya’s retail, distribution and fulfillment services. “The industry we serve is facing an unprecedented set of challenges requiring increased agility and integration,” says Acceleya CEO John Johnston.

GSR Ventures has invested in Akia. The latter offers contactless options, such as pre-arrival check-ins, to hotels. “In the wake of Covid-19, hotels are accelerating adoption to engage guests in a contactless manner, which helps to ensure the continued safety of both guests and staff,” says Akia CEO Evan Chen.

Crest Rock Partners has invested in Unbounce Marketing Solutions Inc. The target offers conversion optimization tools and technology for marketers that help small and mid-size businesses optimize conversions and accelerate growth.

iCapital is buying alternative investments platform from Wells Fargo’s global alternative investments division. After the deal closes, iCapital will service assets of approximately 70 investment vehicles across a range of investment alternative strategies including private equity, private debt, hedge funds, private real estate and direct private investments.

Levine Leichtman-backed Trinity Consultants has acquired Vision Environment Australia Pty Ltd., a provider of water quality monitoring services.

DEAL TRENDS
Virtual data room provider Datasite has lunched Datasite Prepare, an application that leverages artificial intelligence to help with the preparation of any transaction, including restructurings, divestitures and M&A. “You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it,” says Datasite CEO Rusty Wiley. Datasite rebranded itself from Merrill Corp. earlier in 2020.

Alternative asset manager Owl Rock Capital Partners has committed $5 million to a loan program for minority-owned small businesses in the U.S. that have been hammered by the Covid-19 pandemic and other economic and social crises. “There is an emphasis on these funds supporting full employment, so the goal is to have a positive ripple effect,” Owl Rock co-founder Marc Lipschultz tells Bloomberg News. Read the full story by Bloomberg: Owl Rock launches loan program for minority-owned businesses.

The business of global remittances, in which immigrants and expatriates send money to family and friends back home, has been slammed by the coronavirus pandemic. But at least two remittance providers — Remitly and TransferWise — say the disruption has brought new customers to their door. The World Bank has predicted the sharpest decline of remittances in recent history, 19.7% in 2020, because of the economic hit taken by migrant workers, who tend to be more vulnerable to losses of jobs or wages during an economic crisis. Read the full story: In the middle of a pandemic, two remittance startups thrive.

PEOPLE MOVES
Jon Pratt was hired by investment bank Duff & Phelps where he is focusing on consumer M&A. Pratt was most recently with Tully & Holland.

James Redmayne has joined private equity firm Searchlight Capital Partners as a partner. He was previously with CVC. Giles Marshall was hired by the same PE firm as a managing director. He was most recently with Bregal Freshstream.

Chris Harris and Cas Schneller have been promoted to managing partners at private equity firm FFL Partners.

Todd Bradley has joined PE firm One Equity Partners an an operating partner. He was previously the CEO of payments services company Mozido.

CORONAVIRUS IMPACT
Under normal circumstances, M&A demands a robust set of tools and services to be successful. In today’s environment in which the stakes have been raised by the coronavirus crisis, professional help from service providers is more important than ever. Private equity firms and their portfolio companies want to know what actions they can or should take, and what their peers are considering, to make the best decisions possible in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Through talking with many different affected parties, service providers have streams of data and information that can help investors make informed decisions and minimize negative economic impacts on their investments. Mergers & Acquisitions examines offerings from EHE Health, Norgay Partners, Cepres, Valuation Research Corp. and Axial. “The stakes are high today,” says Greg Mansur, chief client officer at EHE Health, which provides a playbook on getting companies back to work safely. “We want to be part of the solution for our clients. We want to help them through this and help America get back to work.” Read our full coverage: 5 service providers guide dealmakers through the next phase of the pandemic.

Many companies are unprepared to face the tremendous economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. For buyers, navigating this new world of distressed M&A may be the hardest obstacle to overcome in transactions with insolvent organizations. Read the full article: Coronavirus puts spotlight on distressed M&A.

Digital technologies like artificial intelligence and advanced analytics can help organizations to accelerate their pace and expand their insights quickly—advantages that are especially crucial in times of rapid change. See the full story: How analytics can rebalance M&A in the wake of the coronavirus.

Arizent, the parent company of Mergers & Acquisitions, released a new survey May 15 to understand how executives across industries were dealing with the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis after operating in a “new normal” environment for two months. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to extend its grip on the globe — infecting more than 1.41 million Americans (over 4.44 million globally) by the middle of May — executives must navigate their organizations through uncharted territory, with the possibility that the virus may not disappear any time soon. This is forcing C-suites to make big, lasting decisions with few guideposts to aid them. The April survey found that there was a surprisingly smooth, albeit hurried transition to remote, with most companies, including private equity firms and investment banks, feeling that they performed on par or above their own expectations. However, technology gaps did arise, as some companies found that customers either didn’t have the equipment to access their accounts digitally or needed training from staff working remotely. In the middle market, dealmakers report that “opportunities have thinned somewhat but have not disappeared,” as one private equity investor put it. “Investor base still has liquidity to invest.” Said one investment banker focused on real estate: “Pending deals were either put on hold, cancelled or delayed. Asset prices for listings are being re-evaluated or renegotiated with the sellers and buyers expecting discounts.” For more, see: Exclusive survey: How private equity firms, investment banks and other companies are surviving the pandemic.

What do you do when you’re a dealmaker under quarantine, and face-to-face meetings are out of the question? For Work from Home (WFH) strategies, Mergers & Acquisitions turns to eight prominent dealmakers from private equity firms, investment banks, lenders and law firms. “I miss the excitement of a great conference; wearing my nice clothes, early morning breakfasts, the one-on-ones, drinks with my women ‘tribe,’ and dinner at a steakhouse, even though I am a vegan,” says Amy Weisman, managing director, business development, Sterling Investment Partners. In some respects, it is easier to build relationships now, explains Nanette Heide, partner, co-chair, private equity group, Duane Morris. “Meeting folks over a video conference from their home is immediately humanizing.” M&A pros also point out that human factors play a role. “Emotional Quotient (EQ) is more important than ever during trying times,” says Jeremy Holland, managing partner, origination, The Riverside Co. “It’s critical to remember that the dealmaker on other side of the (now figurative) deal table is a person, too. They have good and bad days and presumably know many people in high-risk categories, potentially even themselves. Being extra thoughtful about each interaction is important.” Read our full coverage: Dealmaking under quarantine: 8 private equity and M&A pros share strategies while social distancing.

The coronavirus pandemic will change the world and how we live in it profoundly, with dramatic shifts in how we gather and meet, work and learn, make products and distribute them. But exactly how the transformations will play out in the middle market is difficult to discern. Several recent reports and surveys aim to provide a sense of direction. Read the full story: Coronavirus crisis is changing everything, including private equity and M&A.

To explore how the coronavirus is affecting the middle market, Mergers & Acquisitions interviews dealmakers from Alvarez & Marsal, Merrill Corp., M33 Growth, M-III Partners, Paul Hastings and the Riverside Co. Read our full coverage: “Brace for impact,” say private equity firms to portfolio companies about the coronavirus.

FEATURED CONTENT
In the challenging times we face now, it’s more important than ever to come together as a community and recognize the people and companies that excel and lead. We invite you to join us in honoring the 2019 winners of Mergers & Acquisitions’ M&A Mid-Market Awards. In contrast with the volatile coronavirus-driven conditions unfolding in 2020, the dealmaking environment of 2019 was remarkably stable. Among the PE firms benefitting from the auspicious fundraising climate was Vista Private Equity, which raised a $16 billion fund – the largest technology-focused PE fund ever raised. Mergers & Acquisitions is honoring Vista founder and CEO Robert F. Smith with our 2019 Dealmaker of the Year award. In addition to leading his firm’s unprecedented fundraising, Smith excelled in philanthropy. When he spoke at the commencement of Morehouse College, he announced he would pay off all the student loans of the HBCU’s 2019 graduates, providing a helping hand in the student debt crisis facing many U.S. families. The financial services sector saw a lot of consolidation in 2019. Piper Jaffray wins our 2019 Deal of the Year for buying Sandler O’Neill to form Piper Sandler, which instantly became a leading investment bank in the financial services sector. And Stifel wins our 2019 Investment Bank of the Year for growing dramatically and making several acquisitions. Read our full awards coverage: Meet the winners of Mergers & Acquisitions’ M&A Mid-Market Awards.

Houlihan Lokey, Lincoln International, Jefferies Financial Group, William Blair and Piper Sandler Cos. rank as the top five most active M&A investment banks in 2019, based on the volume of completed private equity-backed deals in the U.S., according to PitchBook. Besides advising on M&A deals, the investment banks on the top 10 list also had a busy year with acquisitions of their own in 2019, including two acquisitions by Houlihan Lokey and three by Stifel Financial. Piper Sandler Cos., was created when Minneapolis-based Piper Jaffray Cos. acquired New York-based Sandler O’Neill & Partners in a deal representing more than half of Piper Jaffray’s $930 million market capitalization. The firm also had another acquisition in 2019 and sold a company to exit the traditional asset management business. See our full coverage: Top investment banks for PE-backed deals in 2019: Houlihan Lokey led the pack.

Audax, HarbourVest and Genstar ranked as the top three most active private equity firms in 2019, based on the volume of completed deals in the U.S., according to PitchBook. Three companies tied for fourth place: Abry, Carlyle and Shore Capital. Where were these PE firms looking for deals? Eight of the firms on our list name the software and technology sector among their top investment targets, and seven put healthcare companies on their priority list. Financial services and consumer services are each named by five of the firms as industries they focus on, with four naming business services companies. Fundraising from investors in 2019 led to two notable fund launches earlier in 2020: KKR’s Global Impact Fund and HarbourVest’s $2.6 billion HarbourVest Fund XI. See our full coverage: Top private equity firms in U.S. deals in 2019: Audax Private Equity ranked No. 1.

To celebrate deals, dealmakers and dealmaking firms, Mergers & Acquisitions produces three special reports every year: the M&A Mid-Market Awards; the Rising Stars of Private Equity; and the Most Influenital Women in Mid-Market M&A. For an overview of what we’re looking for in each project, including timelines, see Special reports overview: M&A Mid-Market Awards, Rising Stars, Most Influential Women.

Editor’s Note: M&A wrap is a bi-weekly column, published on Mondays and Thursdays