Anniversary Edition of the Belgian M&A Awards

Last modified: 28 November 2023 16:51
Celebration in the Belgian M&A Community: the Belgian M&A Awards celebrated its first anniversary edition on November 25, 2022.

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In a packed Maison de la Poste in Brussels, a record number of Belgian M&A specialists gathered to look back on a tumultuous deal year—with even more firms on the waiting list for a spot. Community Manager Daphné Debaenst’s opening words were in celebration of this milestone. She also mentioned that the community’s growth would continue through expanding the number of community activities, launching a dedicated website for the community, and hosting the first edition of an M&A event specifically focused on the Belgian Young M&A Community.

For judging the deals, the same highly experienced jury as last year was employed: Chairman Urbain Vandeurzen (Chairman of the Investment Committee and Board, Smile Invest) presided over the jury process for the fourth time, assisted by Pierre Demaerel (Director BVA, Belgian Growth Fund), Michael Sephiha (journalist, De Tijd), Philippe Haspeslagh (honorary dean Vlerick Business School), Renaat Berckmoes (partner, Fortino Capital), and Sophie Manigart (Vlerick Business School). The jury noted that the quality of the submitted deals was high, with plenty of choices in terms of quantity.

The big winner of the evening was Collibra. The jury was particularly proud to present the Belgian ‘unicorn’ and noted that such a stellar team of national and international investors on a deal is rarely seen. In the Best Deal Large Cap category, foam product manufacturer Recticel took home the prize. The jury praised the way the company had successfully fended off a hostile takeover and managed a strategic turnaround during the deal process.

In the mid-cap deals category, Stadbader emerged victorious as the construction company acquired the Belgian activities of BAM. The jury highlighted the importance of entrepreneurial, optimistic family businesses in this deal. The best large Private Equity deal was awarded to Bain Capital, which acquired the growth gem House of HR.

In the smaller PE deals, software deals took center stage: the jury rewarded Fortino for rapidly growing software developer Sigma Conso and successfully transferring it to industry peer Prophix at an attractive price.

For the best biotech investment, the award went to Precirix, a spin-off from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel that raised 80 million euros to bring the next generation of cancer drugs to market.

Jury chairman Vandeurzen couldn’t resist taking a playful jab at the Dutch M&A Community: while there is controversy in the Netherlands over the lack of female nominees, a third of the Belgian Awards were presented to female CEOs.

At the end of the award show, there was a bittersweet note. Urbain Vandeurzen announced that after five years, he is passing the baton to a new chairman. A beautiful moment, after five years—and judging by the enthusiastic atmosphere in the room, it truly is a highlight for the community. As Vandeurzen pointed out, the community may be a bit succumbing to its own success—in a room so full and lively, the message didn’t quite come across. A good sign, and it’s clear that the farewell was a lot less intimate and in a smaller setting than when the community began five years ago. Vandeurzen thanked his fellow jury members of the past years for their open discussions that always ended in a satisfying consensus. Finally, Vandeurzen thanked Daphné Debaenst for her tireless dedication to the community and the beautiful outcome.

With a mix of ambient and energizing music, the band GetSomeWine turned the evening into a dazzling show. Francesca Vanthielen hosted the presentation. Thanks to the main sponsor Ansarada, the most delightful champagne awaited all participants. For additional information about the Belgian M&A market and the state of the ecosystem, the organization relied on the extensive knowledge of the knowledge partner, the Vlerick Business School. The Vlerick team reviewed the submitted deals, appropriately categorized them, and compiled a workable dossier for the jury members. Vlerick also evaluates how the process has unfolded annually. All of this was explained by Prof. Mathieu Luypaert from Vlerick, who, incidentally, mentioned that silencing a noisy room of students was easier than training M&A professionals. After all the awards were presented, the party erupted in the foyer, and dancing continued into the early hours of the morning.

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