Telecoms towers M&A tipped for slowdown; EQT’s Solarpack adds Solaer businesses

Solaer, a solar photovoltaic power plant company, is the first inorganic transaction by Solarpack since EQT bought it in December 2021.

Good morning Eurohubsters, Craig McGlashan here with the first Dealflow of the week.

I spent part of the weekend being underwhelmed by the opening game of the FIFA World Cup, so luckily we have some far more exciting football news from the world of private equity for you this morning. But first, some pessimistic news on the outlook for European M&A – in one sector at least.

Hanging up. We wrote a couple of weeks ago about a group of funds led by Global Infrastructure Partners and KKR entering into a strategic co-control partnership with Vodafone for the latter’s 81.7 percent stake in European telecoms tower company Vantage Towers.

But that might be the last M&A deal in the towers sector for a while, with the CEO of Spanish masts company Cellnex telling the Financial Times that the market is now “pretty much closed” thanks to rampant inflation making financing difficult and the availability of assets falling.

“M&A activity is over,” Tobias Martínez Gimeno told the FT. “Material, inorganic growth, for the next 24 months, is over.”

Cellnex had been super acquisitive over the last few years, buying 130,000 towers across 12 European countries, according to the FT report.

Tech off. Companies are also shelving IPO plans. UK technology firm Arm delayed its planned launch on the London Stock Exchange, according to a report in the Mail on Sunday.

The Softbank-owned semiconductor and software design company had been tipped to hit an IPO value of £50 billion ($59.0 billion; €57.5 billion) but turmoil in stock markets has put the plans on hold.

“Clearly, we want to float as soon as is possible,” Ian Thornton, Arm’s head of investor relations, told shareholders, according to the report. “But given the current global economic uncertainty, given the state of financial markets, that’s probably now unlikely to happen before the end of March 2023.

“However, preparations for the flotation are going very well. They’re advanced. And we are fully committed to floating sometime in 2023.”

Warming up. EQT portfolio company Solarpack bought the Spanish and Italian businesses of Solaer, a solar photovoltaic power plant company. It was the first inorganic transaction by Solarpack since EQT bought it in December 2021.

The acquisition added “a highly qualified team of professionals operating in Spain and Italy that complements Solarpack’s skills, as well as a network of offices and operation centres in regions where it had no presence to date, including the Italian market”, according to a statement from Solarpack.

Solarpack is headquartered in Bilbao.

The private equity dealmaking arena has been busy with sustainable energy deals of late. Read more about the sector in our coverage last week of ICG Infra’s acquisition of Dos Grados and Carlyle’s launch of renewables platform Telis Energy.

Investment goals. The FIFA World Cup kicked off at the weekend but while players are representing their countries in Qatar, their clubs are eyeing up deals.

Steven Zhang, chairman of Italian club Inter Milan, has been meeting with US private equity and credit funds, according to a tweet by Italian journalist Carlo Festa of Il Sole 24 Ore.

Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre Conte, chairman of San Francisco-based private equity firm Genstar Capital, has “emerged as a significant backer of fellow US investor John Textor’s takeover of French football club Olympique Lyonnais”, according to a Bloomberg report.

Check out some of PE Hub Europe’s recent coverage of private equity’s growing exposure to European football in this interview with the owner of English club Burnley FC.

MBO. NVM Private Equity announced it has completed an investment supporting the management buyout of Inprova, a technology and data-enabled procurement services business.

Inprova, based in Cheshire, England, is a technology and data enabled procurement services business working across private, public and third sectors. The company focuses on categories including property and construction, FM and maintenance, energy and renewables, fleet and logistics, IT and telecoms, healthcare and indirect spend.

“Inprova’s tech-led platform is the heartbeat of the business, driving efficiency, transparency and compliance for customers,” said Andy Leach, investment partner of NVM. “With new investment, a highly experienced management team and its existing technology at its core, Inprova is well positioned for considerable future growth.”

That’s it from me. I’ll be back with you tomorrow.