M&A Awards Belgium 2019 almost doubled and a great success

Last modified: 28 November 2023 15:34
The M&A Awards Belgium showed the vitality and innovative power of Belgian entrepreneurs and investors. And it was also a lot of fun!

– Download the official press release with the five winning deals of 2019 

With twice as many participants and one and a half times as many winners as last year, the second edition of the Belgian M&A Awards could only be a great success. The crème de la crème of the Belgian M&A industry gathered in the immense ballroom of the Hotel de la Poste in Brussels to celebrate a year full of brilliant deals.

The fact that there were also enough Dutch dealmakers in the room shows more than once how fruitful the cross-border cooperation is between the Netherlands and Belgium. There were Dutch guests from, among others, ABN AMRO, Alvarez & Marsal, Apax Partners, Deloitte, Gilde Buy Out Partners, Gilde Equity Partners, ING Bank, Mentha Capital, Newion Investments, Torqx Capital and Waterland Private Equity.

What makes the M&A Awards so much fun is that during the ceremony the entrepreneurs or directors of the target companies are also in the audience, together with their advisors. After the closing, there is a nice moment to reflect together on the successes achieved in the past year.

The immense Tour & Taxis complex in which Hotel de la Poste is located was once part of the pan-European transport network of the wealthy von Thurn und Taxis family – there could be no better location for Belgian entrepreneurs and advisors to demonstrate their pan-European ambitions and competencies.And there are: Belgium has a wonderful SME sector that makes a name for itself worldwide, especially in the field of (bio)tech, as will be evident from the winners below.

After a reception with champagne and resounding welcome words from Ezri Blaauw on behalf of Alex van Groningen and Urbain Vandeurzen on behalf of the Belgian jury of the M&A awards, the dinner started.

From Eregem to the moon

Between the scallop carpaccio and the tenderloin, the audience listened to Rudi Pauwels – and when Pauwels speaks, all investing Belgium listens with full attention. Pauwels is one of the best-known Belgian entrepreneurs, who, based on his research background, was one of the first people to develop an effective AIDS inhibitor (including with money from Freddie Mercury – Pauwels’ story was full of these kinds of anecdotes). From a strong commercial vision – because what is a solution if it does not reach the market – he developed successful medicines and is now active as an angel investor; a capital injection from Pauwels is a seal of quality for a biotech startup. The vector in which Pauwels foresees the greatest growth in the near future is personalized medicine, following the example of consumer electronics: cheap, personalized care.

His story was not just about the business aspects of biotech. It was also about improving the world, with a concrete example of the mobile laboratories that Pauwels uses with his company Biocartis to combat epidemics on location. It was also about dreams: as a child, Pauwels saw the moon landing on TV, which inspired him to do limitless research. Pauwels wanted to tell the audience that great success does not necessarily have to start in Silicon Valley, but that a billion-dollar business can also come from Eregem (where?).

And the winner is…

After the main course it was time for the real main course: the Awards themselves! First of all, about the jury members and the categories. An attempt has been made to put together a broad range of expertise: investors, academics and journalists naturally all have their own specific opinion about the deals. The jury consisted of Urbain Vandeurzen (Chairman Panel of Judges and Chairman of Smile Invest), Philippe Haspeslagh (Honorary Dean Vlerick Business School), Eric van Zele (Former President & CEO Barco), Renaat Berckmoes (Partner Fortino Capital), Michaël Sephiha (Journalist at Mediafin/De Tijd) and Pierre Demaerel (Secretary General at Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association). The jury had plenty to choose from, but it was also quickly decided, because the most complete and eye-catching deals could count on unanimous appreciation.

This year there were five awards to be earned. Large deals, Mid-Cap deals, the best investment in biotech, the best investment in IT and finally the best Private Equity Growth Capital deal. The jury not only assessed the complexity of the deal or the value of the transaction, but also included feelings of ‘proud’ of great Belgian companies. The Belgian unicorns therefore won prizes – and there was a special Award in the biotech category, because that sector is the national economic pride.

Best M&A Award Large-Cap Corporate Deal 2019

The deal between Gilead and Galapagos won the Award for best deal in the toughest category. The deal stood out not only because of the size and the companies involved, but also because it contained such special conditions: that Galapagos is given a period to grow without fear of losing freedom in exchange for some nice new molecules for the pipeline from Gilead was seen by the jury as a compelling solution to a complex problem and a great credit to the dealmakers.

The Galapagos team with Piet Wigerinck, Ph.D., second from right. – Chief Scientific Officer and member of the Executive Team

Best M&A Award Mid-Cap Deal 2019

In the mid-range segment, the prize went to the takeover by Kinepolis in Canada, where the cinema chain MJR Digital Cinemas was purchased. To still achieve such growth in a market under pressure from Netflix, Disney+ and other streaming services thanks to excellent management of the formulas and the locations of the cinemas made a deep impression on the jury. The team’s belief in the cinema as a phenomenon is also evident: when receiving the Award, the management team stated that in busy smartphone times the cinema was the perfect place to dream away in peace and quiet while watching a beautiful film.

The magic of the big screen, at Kinepolis they continue to believe in it. On the left Eddy Duquenne (CEO) and on the right Nicolas De Clercq (CFO)

Best M&A Award PE Growth Capital Deal 2019

In the 19th century, the entrepreneurial epic was written by the paper boy who rose to become a steel baron; in the 21st century, this is the teenager who tinkered with computers in his attic room and thus formed the basis of a unicorn – a tech company with a valuation of more than a billion dollars. Jonas Dhaenens managed to give hosting company Combell this status thanks to a merger with the Dutch TransIP. Before that happened, an impressive buy & build strategy was implemented under the HgGroup (and before that Waterland), with virtually no misses or overly expensive purchases. According to the jury, the execution of this strategy deserved all the praise and the 2019 Award in the category: Private Equity Growth Capital.

Jonas Dhaenens (CEO team.blue (Combell & TransIP)), who made his name in hosting, shown here with the hostess of the evening, Cynthia Reekmans.

Best M&A Award Venture Capital Deal 2019 – IC-Technology

Collibra is the other unicorn with Belgian roots and earned the Award by obtaining 110 million euro in funding from CapitalG, the investment arm of Google. The jury notes that it is not just about the money: access to Google’s research facilities that open up the new horizons of AI, machine learning and the like is also of great value to the company, which can therefore improve and expand its products.

The two young entrepreneurs from Collibra; Alexander Rombaut (Chief of Staff) and Mathisse De Strooper (Product Manager)

Best M&A Award Venture Capital Deal 2019 – Life Sciences

Finally, the largest Series A funding round ever in Belgium was awarded. Confo Therapeutics managed to raise 30 million euro from the most prestigious VC funds in the world for the further development of medicines based on ‘G-protein coupled receptors’. This is a deal that the jury members would like to see: an international reach, a good connection with the clinical world and a healthy dose of entrepreneurship.


The Award for Confo Therapeutics was accepted by Michel Casselman, CEO of De Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen (PMV) (a cornerstone investor of Confo Therapeutics).

On to the next!

After presenting the Awards, there was ample opportunity to enjoy the other pride of Belgium: patisserie and chocolaterie. Once dessert was over, there was still plenty of opportunity for dancing, drinks and good conversations about a great business year for enterprising Belgium. The audience expressed unmitigated optimism, something that will undoubtedly lead to many more great deals in 2020, but we will see that on November 26, 2020 at the next M&A Awards Belgium. Write it in your diary or make a reservation via MA-Awards.be.

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