By Suzy Bibko, EMEA Content Marketing Manager, Merrill Corporation
At our M&A Breakfast in Lisbon in late February 2020, we asked local M&A practitioners about how they felt about the state of the market in the region, as well as how technology could best help them going forward. What did they say? That they clearly understand where innovation can add value in the process.
The Iberian region made up just 6.2% of deal value in EMEA in 2019, and 7.7% of the total deal count (Deal Drivers EMEA FY2019), but Portugal re-elected its Prime Minister in October and Spain finally formed a government in January. What does this mean going forward for M&A in the region? Practitioners seems to be leaning towards the side of caution rather than optimism, as over half of those we surveyed (52%) felt M&A would hold its course for the year.
It’s the Source, Of Course
Perhaps the stable outlook provides some insight into the fact that Portuguese practitioners feel that the most important success factor for M&A there is deal sourcing: if the deals can’t be sourced, it’s difficult to have a positive outlook. Interestingly, this factor held much less importance for practitioners in Johannesburg, which also has endured a prolonged period of political and economic uncertainty.
That being said, Portuguese practitioners felt that technology could best help them in deal prep and due diligence – not strategy and sourcing. So, they clearly understand where value can be added, and also perhaps understand the limits of technology.
Surprisingly Low M&A Digital Maturity
We also asked our audience about how they used technology, for what purpose and at what level. While they acknowledged that they were not very digitally mature or technologically sophisticated, they seemed keenly aware of where it could benefit them the most and through what means.
The Tip of the Tech Iceberg
Portuguese practitioners there felt it was AI and machine learning, as well as data analytics that will have the most impact on M&A going forward, although in opposite proportions than for dealmakers in Dubai and Johannesburg.
Ines Costa Moura, Head of Legal Corporate M&A, Sonae Capital, explains: “I believe that technology has already created tools that are essential in M&A processes and with AI and machine learning entering in the game, that role will assume a definitive importance both in terms of agility and in terms of accuracy.”
“These technologies are increasingly important in M&A, as they have proven to be a real asset in the deal process,” says Alvaro Ortega, Head of Iberia & Italy, Merrill Corp. “AI and machine learning are helping reduce the time and resource costs associated with M&A transactions, helping close deals faster. Our tools, like integrated redaction, Q&A threading and visual analytics have proven to save time, reduce errors and improve security, thereby accelerating the whole M&A due diligence process. It’s great to see that Portuguese practitioners understand the value these innovations can bring to the table for them.”
And going forward? “We are yet to discover a limit as to where technology can take us, so looking forward – and, in my opinion, right now we only see the tip of the iceberg that technology in M&A represents and I, for one, am looking forward to what the (near) future holds and, of course, to partake in the process,” says Costa Moura.