Discover the winners of the Belgian M&A Awards 2020

Last modified: 28 November 2023 15:23
On Thursday, March 18, the winners of the M&A Awards Belgium were announced in five categories.

Unfortunately, this year there won’t be a grand gala dinner with captivating speakers in Brussels to look back on the past deal year. The Coronavirus is still throwing a spanner in the works. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to say about the movements in the M&A market. Creativity, entrepreneurship, and the perseverance to rise above challenges distinguish the real top entrepreneurs and companies from the rest of the pack. As inconvenient as such a crisis may be, it provides the jury with an even clearer view of which companies and entrepreneurs are taking entrepreneurial Belgium to new heights.

VIDEO: M&A AWARDS WINNERS 2020 presented by Daphné Debaenst, Community Manager M&A Belgium.

The Coronavirus also impacted the country’s transaction practices. There was a clear decline in the number of deals in Belgium, especially in the mid-market. Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. The life sciences sector, where Belgium is already strongly represented, performed exceptionally well. A year of pandemic discomfort, as cynical as it may sound, provided an extra boost to the biomedical sectors.

The jury, tasked with choosing from 14 nominated deals, was once again led by Urbain Vandeurzen, a past entrepreneur who built a successful company and has since become one of Belgium’s top investors. He was assisted by investors Pierre Demaerel (BVA and Belgian Growth Fund) and Renaat Berckmoes (Fortino Capital). Philippe Haspeslagh, an investor and Honorary Dean of the Vlerick Business School, represented the academic side, and Michael Sephiha of De Tijd provided the journalistic perspective. Eric van Zele, former CEO of Barco, brought a wealth of corporate experience. After thorough discussions of the top threes and favorites during a digital meeting, the jury reached a unanimous conclusion about which companies would take home the prizes this year.

Below are the five winning deals presented to you. The online show announcing the winners can be viewed on

If you want to know more about the deals and companies in question, be sure to check out the M&A Sofa Sessions: a video series in which economist Peter De Keyzer engages in conversations with the CEOs of the winning companies.

Best Large Cap Corporate Deal 2020: Aedifica – Hoivatilat

Deals with a deal value above 250 million euros involving a Belgian party on the buying or selling side.

There’s a fascinating aspect to choosing the Best Large Cap Corporate deal at the national level, namely that companies capable of playing at this level are usually outgrowing their home country. Sustainable and intelligent expansion in Europe was, therefore, a crucial theme for the jury. In the case of the winner, it’s clearly evident: by selecting the acquisition of the Finnish Hoivatilat by healthcare real estate investor Aedifica, the jury recognizes a significant benchmark for Belgian business. Aedifica is the first SIR to spread its wings to the Nordics, specifically Finland and Sweden, through a public tender offer.

This deal had a very clear strategic component. The market for nursing homes looks promising in Europe in the coming years, according to demographic trends. The build-and-hold model of the Finnish party is seen as a stable foundation for future growth. This is evident from Aedifica’s continued growth path, marked by several acquisitions since then.

M&A Sofa Session with Stefaan Gielens, CEO at Aedifica
Peter De Keyzer interviews the winner of the M&A Award 2020 Best Large-Cap Corporate Deal. Watch the video here.

Best Mid-Cap Corporate Deal 2020: B0ehringer Ingelheim – GST

Deals between 25 and 250 million euros involving a Belgian party on the buying or selling side.

Rheumatism in horses is undoubtedly not a topic you think about every day, but it’s certainly uplifting to hear that it can now be cured with a single injection. What’s even more exciting is that the stem cell therapy making this possible was developed in Belgium at GST, a spin-off of Anacura. Pharma giant Boehringer Ingelheim acquired the company after a two-year engagement period during which they jointly brought a groundbreaking stem cell therapy to the market.

The synergistic advantage of the deal is clear: GST gains access to Boehringer Ingelheim’s phenomenal resources, and Boehringer Ingelheim secures a crucial asset in the development of the next generation of medicines. The jury also commended that the researchers and facilities would remain in Flanders, ensuring the ecosystem continues to benefit from their presence. This way, Belgium maintains its position in the global elite of this sector.

M&A Sofa Session with Jan Spaas, General Manager at GST
Peter De Keyzer interviews the winner of the M&A Award 2020 Best Mid-Cap Corporate Deal. Watch the video here.

Best PE Growth Capital Deal 2020: Tosca – Contraload

The best deal involving non-listed companies.

It sounds like a boy’s dream: two young Belgian entrepreneurs spot a gap in the market for business-to-business packaging material, specifically pallets for the FMCG industry, transporting raw materials to major food processors. With clever materials and sophisticated software, the duo improves this process so effectively that they soon become the European market leader, with over three million smart pallets in circulation. This caught the attention of investor Apax Partners. The renowned fund connected Contraload with Tosca, a company operating in a similar manner but in a different part of the market (transporting food manufacturers’ products to retailers).

In short, it’s a great match of technology and complementary chains. Additionally, with the acquisition, Tosca gains a foothold on the European mainland, where the management of Contraload will lead the European division. A fantastic deal for the entrepreneurs, the strategic players, and the investors from previous rounds (GIMV and D2E), who achieve a successful exit.

M&A Sofa Session with Jesse Sels, President EMEA at Tosca
Peter De Keyzer interviews the winner of the M&A Award 2020 Best PE Growth Capital Deal. Watch the video here.

Best Venture Capital Deal 2020 – Technology: Odoo

The company in the field of (software) technology that has raised the most noteworthy round of growth capital.

From a Walloon farm to the pinnacle of logistics software: Odoo has achieved remarkable success. Over the past ten years, the company has grown by 50% each year. Ready for the next phase of growth, including a new campus and more staff, Odoo attracted a lineup of investors. Ultimately, a deal was struck with the American Summit Partners, known for investments in Uber and Flow Traders. In this latest round, Odoo successfully raised €81 million in short-term funding.

M&A Sofa Session with Fabien Pinckaers, CEO at Odoo
Peter De Keyzer interviews the winner of the M&A Award 2020 Best Venture Capital Deal – Technology. Watch the video here.

Best Venture Capital Deal 2020 – Life Sciences: Iteos

The company in the field of life sciences that has raised the most noteworthy round of growth capital.

No disease has as much societal impact as cancer, and these awards would not be complete without recognizing the fruitful collaboration between academics, investors, and entrepreneurs in this field. Iteos develops cancer drugs based on immunotherapy, one of the most promising avenues in the ongoing fight against cancer, attracting considerable investor interest.

Iteos’ position among the global leaders is evident as the company raised €125 million (€18 million from Belgian investors), making it not only the largest investment of the year but also one with significant societal impact. The funds will support further research and the attraction of new talent. The jury also commends the remarkable speed at which the company has risen, from inception to Nasdaq listing in just 10 short years.

The Belgian M&A Awards 2020 Online were sponsored by Ansarada, which recently interviewed M&A experts in North and South America and APAC and conducted a survey among 50 leading dealmakers across Europe to provide a diverse perspective on what lies ahead. You can read their M&A Global Predictions here.

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