Consumer dealmaking fell into a deep freeze in the first quarter, but there’s some hope out of Europe, where Scotch & Soda and other private equity-owned fashion firms could begin a thaw.
Mergermarket’s first-quarter tally of global consumer mergers and acquisitions showed declines in both the number of deals and in their size. Deal value fell 66.5 percent to $45.9 billion, while the number of deals dropped 14.1 percent to 449.
The comparison was tough with a year earlier, when the $54.5 billion Kraft Foods and Heinz merger and Newell Rubbermaid’s $17.9 billion acquisition of Jarden pumped up the total. But in general, Mergermarket said the sector was caught in a larger downdraft. “The megadeal frenzy, which drove M&A in 2015 is no longer the defining trend in the market,” the tracking service said.
It was strategic acquirers that pulled back as private equity deals increased 11.1 percent last year, reaching a total value of $4.8 billion.
Fashion could help boost that trend, particularly in Europe.
“In Europe, private equity exits in the fashion industry could be a space to watch,” Mergermarket said. “Whereas 2015 saw five exits valued at 858 million euros, or $936 million, in 2015, Mergermarket intelligence has identified a number of fashion companies based in Western Europe that have been held by sponsors for between 36 to 72 months and which are likely to be exited in the near future, including Netherlands-based Scotch & Soda, which was bought by Sun Capital Partners via its portfolio company Kellwood Co. for an undisclosed consideration in July 2011.”
A spokeswoman for Sun was not immediately available to comment.
The general trend, though, might have already started, just last week private equity giant KKR inked a deal to sell the Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot fashion chains to Chinese textile company Shandong Ruyi Group for a reported 1.3 billion euros, or $1.45 billion, including debt. That deal was something of a breakthrough as banking sources for years have said there were deep-pocketed Asian producers looking at Western brands.
Mergermarket said the IPO market in the U.S. could also start to warm.
“A fickle equity capital markets environment continues to prove challenging for consumer companies,” the firm said. “In the U.S., the sector failed to register a single initial public offering for the third consecutive month, while the first quarter of last year was similarly quiet. Several sector businesses are expected to break this cold spell and list in the near term, including grocery giant Albertsons.”