In these times of globally booming M&A activity, I
am pleased to present the first M&A Monitor of the
Centre for Mergers, Acquisitions and Buyouts of
Vlerick Business School. This Monitor supersedes the
annual Entrepreneurial Buy-out Monitor that Vlerick
has conducted over the past years. The scope has
been expanded to consider all types of mergers and
By capturing the opinions of 142 M&A experts in
Belgium – including bankers, private equity investors,
advisors, brokers, lawyers, family offices and
mezzanine players – we provide a comprehensive
overview of current trends and challenges in the
domain of M&A in Belgium. The findings presented
in this report are of great interest to all professionals
active in the Belgian M&A market, as well as to
decision-makers on both the selling and the
The results strongly indicate that Belgian M&A
activity is surging − with 2 out of 3 respondents
observing an increase in the number of M&A
transactions. Competition amongst buyers has
intensified, as the current market is clearly demanddriven,
fuelled by easily available bank financing
and the extensive amount of dry powder of private
equity companies. The increased interest of family
offices, wealthy individuals and foreign PE firms
in the Belgian midcap segment puts additional
pressure on the buy-side. A demand-driven M&A
wave naturally results in rising valuations and M&A
multiples. The experts surveyed overwhelmingly
indicate that multiples have increased over the past
year, leading to an average EV/EBITDA multiple
across all industries and size classes of 6.1.
Nevertheless, the imbalance between high demand
and limited (high-quality) supply of companies also
calls for caution. Academic evidence shows that
transactions taking place at the top of an M&A
wave are typically less profitable. These deals are
more likely to be driven by hubris and herding
behaviour. In addition, most interesting targets
have usually been acquired at the start of the wave,
leaving only targets that do not fully meet the ideal
selection criteria. That’s why a detailed upfront
assessment of the motives for buying a company,
and a realistic estimate of potential synergy gains,
prove to be of utmost importance in successful
M&A. Our survey results indicate that realising
economies of scale is considered to be the primary
motive for strategic buyers, while financial buyers
focus mainly on opportunities to follow a buy-andbuild
approach or improve revenue and/or margin.
The results presented in this monitor also provide
interesting insights into the deal structure (use
of vendor loans, earnouts, leverage ratios) and
process (nature of sale process, use of vendor
due diligence, length of M&A process). We open
the black box of price negotiations and find, for
example, that almost 1 out of 2 experts indicates
that the average final deal price exceeds the initial
indicative offer, while only 1 in 4 reports a lower
final deal price compared to the offer price.
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