Exhibition World Issue 2 — 2020 - Page 9

Dealmakers Steve Monnington Managing Director Mayfield Media Strategies Dealmakers Mergers and acquisitions are being put on pause during Covid-19 – but there will be plenty of opportunities in the aftermath, says Mayfield Media Strategies’ Steve Monnington All but one of the transactions listed below happened before Covid-19 took hold, forcing the entire exhibition industry to shut down. The one exception was Diversified Communication’s acquisition of Energy Storage North America. This follows the acquisition of Intersolar North America last year and the two events will be co-located in 2021 so that renewable energy production and storage will sit side by side. The short-term outlook for M&A is clear. The major organisers who make up the majority of the buyers are focused on saving their own businesses amid the postponement or cancellation of their own shows, and acquisition processes have been put on hold. The medium term is less clear – some organisers and Private Equity firms see the opportunity for possible bargains as independent organisers feel the financial pain. However, those independents are fully focused on staying in business and are currently planning on running their shows later in the year. No- one wants to sell out their life’s work for a fraction of its value. Longer term, when a vaccine is found and Covid-19 is under control, exhibitions will be at the forefront, leading the revitalisation of trade across every sector. As long as there isn’t a second wave, we should start to see M&A activity in those countries that are early coming out of lockdown. There are reports that China is planning to start exhibitions again in a few months’ time. We have been hosting phone conferences with six independent organisers at a time, creating a forum for them to listen to each other’s experiences and to swap ideas on how to deal fairly with exhibitors and how the different venues are treating them for their show postponements or cancellations. The over-riding sentiment was that the value of their show brand is intrinsically linked to being mindful of their exhibitors’ issues and to act fairly, carrying over deposits to future editions. Any attempt to run a show before it’s clear that it’s safe and in the interests of the sector to do so will be seen as a cynical financial decision and will backfire. Unfortunately, some of the venues aren’t w w w.exhibitionworld.co.uk behaving towards organisers in the same way as the organisers are towards their exhibitors, meaning extra pressure on cash flow at a time when some organisers have already agreed pay cuts with their staff. There is then an inevitable knock-on effect to the vast network of freelancers and small suppliers who support the sector. In a recent Flashes and Flames article, Colin Morrison wrote that “companies should collaborate and form alliances with competitors and counterparts throughout the world. We are, quite literally, all in this together. It can be an opportunity to build new relationships in a media marketplace that may never be quite the same again”. Very wise words – no-one should be alone in this and everyone has a part to play in being fair to each other in order for the industry as a whole to come through this as unscathed as possible. Transactions during the two months to March 2020: Buyer Business Country Sector Reed Exhibitions Coffee & Chocolate Expo South Africa Food Reed Exhibitions ITS World Congress USA Intelligent Transport Tarsus Unfiltered Experience USA Beauty Questex Informa’s Live Design portfolio USA Design Marketplace Events Cincinnati Holiday Market USA Travel Diversified Communications Energy Storage N America USA Energy Diversified Communications Aquaculture UK Food SAE SMI Group UK Conference Portfolio ICG Pageant Media UK Finance Mark Allen Group RBI’s Farmers Weekly portfolio UK Farming CloserStill Media Zufunft Personal Expo Germany Human Resources Easyfairs SIEL Algeria Hospitality Issue 2 2020 9