M&A wrap: EHE Health, Norgay Partners, Norgay, VRC, Axial, Barings, AstraZeneca, Gilead Sciences, Siris, Arsenal, U.S. Bancorp

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.

“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.

U.S. Bancorp will pledge $116 million to address long-standing social and economic inequities in the markets it serves and broaden opportunities for people of color. The nation’s fifth-largest bank said it will provide $100 million in additional capital to African American owned and operated businesses and organizations; create a $15 million fund through the U.S. Bank Foundation that provide grants to ease systemic economic and racial inequities in small business, affordable housing and workplace development for people of color nationwide; and give $1 million toward the launch of a community development financial institutions partnership program to award grants and commercial loans to organizations. See the full story by American Banker: U.S. Bancorp pledges $116 million to address racial inequality

DEAL NEWS
A merger of drugmakers AstraZeneca Plc and Gilead Sciences Inc. (Nasdaq: GILD) is unlikely, according to analysts, after Bloomberg News reported that the U.K. company made a preliminary approach to its U.S. peer. Political opposition from both Britain and America could derail any attempt at a deal, especially given the backdrop of the Covid-19 outbreak. Read the full story by Bloomberg News: Potential AstraZeneca-Gilead deal to face political, strategic hurdles.

Siris Capital and Evergreen Coast Capital have invested $500 million in travel technology company Travelport Worldwide. “Covid-19 and the governmental response to the pandemic has had a negative impact on the travel industry, including our business, and we appreciate the increased support from Siris and Evergreen as we work to get through this challenging time,” says Travelport CEO Greg Webb.

Arsenal Capital Partners-backed Fralock has acquired Career Technologies USA, a provider of engineering and manufacturing services.

One Equity Partners-backed Orion has purchased video service delivery software company Orion.

For more deal annoucements, see Weekly wrap: Netflix, Shamrock, Thoma Bravo.

For more fundraising news, see PE fundraising scorecard: Ares, Argentum, Commonfund, Stellex.

PEOPLE MOVES
Erik Johnson and Ed Wong have been promoted to managing directors at TSG Consumer Partners. They both joined the PE firm in 2011.

CORONAVIRUS IMPACT
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.

The coronavirus pandemic has already quashed a number of previously announced deals, including Xerox’s hostile takeover bid for HP. More deals are expected to fail, as companies focus on preserving cash and ensuring debt access just to make it through the challenging economic cycle. The auto, retail, restaurant, travel and manufacturing sectors have been particularly hit hard, as they face declining sales and location closures. Automotive manufacturers are restructuring their businesses, and car dealerships are seeing fewer people walk in the door. For more, read our full coverage: 5 derailed deals: HP, TGI Fridays among those losing buyers during coronavirus crisis.

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