M&A Awards: Oxygen for the economy

Last modified: 01 December 2023 14:06
This years’ Belgian M&A Awards highlight the added value of strategic M&A in growing the Belgian entrepreneurial ecosystem. More than 500 people attended the award show at the Brussels Expo.

View all winners with jury commentary here and view all photos here.

Presiding over the M&A Awards 2023 was Lieve Creten, taking over from Urbain Vandeurzen. Creten headed Deloitte’s Belgian M&A practice before embarking on a glittering career as an independent (investment) advisor and a board member at companies like Telenet and Barco. In the opening remarks she commented on the growth and further maturation of the Belgian M&A ecosystem – essential, in her mind, to foster a culture of ambition and entrepreneurship in the country. Many more Belgian companies are starting to explore acquisitions and outside investors as a supplementary way to grow companies beside organic growth. The role of the M&A Community is to guide and shape this development, leading her to comment that M&A is in this way “oxygen for the economy”. Her views were echoed by Community Manager Charlotte Declerq, stating her ambition that the M&A community will continue to connect and inspire the Belgian M&A Community by hosting knowledge sharing fora and deploying the deal database platform.

With 500 guests at the gala dinner the event was again much larger than last edition. With many more firms in attendance it’s clear that the M&A Community in Belgium is growing – requiring an even bigger hall than last year. To give the winners their proper due the ceremony was moved from between the courses of the gala dinner to a separate show, with the presentation of the night in the capable hands of Ilse de Vis, calling on community manager Charlotte Declercq and Lieve Creten to present the awards and comment on the deals. The first award of the night – for the best biotech investment – was awarded to Aphea Bio. This agritech company raised a €70 million series C round to bring several microbial biostimulants and biocontrol products to market. Creten praised the strong female leadership of CEO Isabel Vercauteren and the fact that the investment round was joined by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The best tech investment of this year was Keyrock. This digital asset market maker managed to raise a significant amount of money even in a rocky crypto market. When looking at the investments the panel of judges didn’t just look at the financial details of the deal, but also at the track record of the involved investors, resulting in a clear preference for deals backed by renowned funds with proven returns and managing ability. The signature of a top tier fund on the line is in the venture capital space usually a seal of quality on a company.

Moving on to the private equity deals: the award for the best Mid Size Private Equity deal was awarded to a complex management buy-in of founder Bart Pauwels and Andera Partners into Pauwels Consulting. Creten remarked that the growth trajectory of Pauwels wasn’t just exemplary for Belgian SME’s, but also proved that Belgian firms are able to make significant inroads into the Dutch market. The award for the beste large Private Equity deal was awarded to the sale of Amadys to ETC by Equistone Partners Europe. This strategic exit in the telecom infrastructure sector won out over the competition due to the excellent financial results under the management of Equistone and the complex stakeholder management. In the Best Corporate Deal Mid Cap category the delisting and takeover of CTG by Cegeka garnered lavish praise from the jury. Not only did Cegeka move up in size to become an international player in the field of managed IT services, it also took some courage and ambition from the firm from Hasselt to delist a NASDAQ company. As for the large cap deals: the deal between Orange and VOO was the clear winner. It wasn’t just the size and complexity of the deal that drew the eye of the jury, but also the strategic rationale: by combining the mobile network of Orange with the physical infrastructure of VOO a truly allround telecommunication giant.

As a seventh and final award of the night Jos Peeters was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his landmark achievements in Venture Capital. The founder of Capricorn, Quest for Growth and the Belgian Venture Capital Association graciously expected this unexpected award, thanking his wife and team members in the audience. He closed his remarks with a reading tip: he implored the business leaders in the audience to read “The signal and the noise’ by Nate Silver, stating that being able to identify the meaningful and essential is the most essential skill in running a great business.

Inspired by the wise words of Peeters and the winners the community moved on to the grand gala dinner. With the food and drink served the community was able to reflect on an exciting and dynamic year of making deals, and look ahead to 2024. The gala dinner and the subsequent party were an excellent opportunity to make new connections. The M&A Community thanks all the community partners for their enduring support and contribution to the fantastic evening, especially Ansarada, with the data room specialist acting as the principal sponsor of the Award Show.

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