Dealmakers - collaboration is in

Steve Monnington, managing director of Mayfield Media Strategies, runs the roost over the latest mergers and acquisitions.


The theme running through the few transactions that have taken place in the last two months is ‘collaboration’ and, given the difficult situation that companies find themselves in as a result of the pandemic, I’m sure that we will be seeing more of these.

Nexus Point, an Asian private equity fund with a focus on strategic opportunities in China, has agreed to invest up to €192m in GL Events Greater China in two tranches over the next two years. GL Events announced their 2020 results with an overall 59% drop in revenue from 2019. Unsurprisingly, all three areas of their business – Live, Exhibitions and Venues - showed significant decreases with exhibition revenue down 70% from €231m to €68m.

In October last year, GL obtained €164m through a new French state-guaranteed loan programme and it is understood that they had to find additional funds from elsewhere in order to further develop their overseas business.

GL made several acquisitions in China in 2019 and the first part of 2020, including exhibitions in home décor, fashion and the medical sector. China is the main country that has been able to hold exhibitions through 2020 and this funding will allow GL to continue the development of its business there through targeted acquisitions. In terms of collaboration, Nexus Point will provide its knowledge of industry sectors, its resources and its expertise in identifying targets and completing transactions.

The two main organisers in Singapore, SingEx and Sphere Exhibits, have merged their businesses. As well as owning a portfolio of shows across Asia, SingEx Holdings operates the Singapore Expo venue together with their Max Atria convention centre.  At the end of 2018 SingEx won a tender bid to continue operating both venues for at least 10 years. Sphere is the event organising arm of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), publisher of Straits Times and Business Times newspapers and also one of the three bidders for the Singapore Expo management. They have a varied portfolio of tradeshows in Singapore and Malaysia.

Under the terms of the deal, which values the combined business at SGD61m, Temasek Holdings (parent company of SingEx) owns 60% and SPH owns 40% and the aim is to position the company as a regional MICE market leader offering event management, venue operations, hybrid events and consulting services.

In Colombia, Messe Dusseldorf has teamed up with Colombian organiser and venue operator Corferias to jointly acquire a share in COLOMBIAPLAST, one of the leading events in Latin America for the plastics, rubber, petrochemical and packaging sectors taking place at Corferias’ own centre in Bogota. The Association in question is Acoplasticos (Asociación Colombiana de Industrias Plásticas) which will be an equal one-third partner with Corferias and Messe Dusseldorf.

Messe Dusseldorf has vast experience in the plastics and rubber sector through its organising of the world-leading K Trade Fair. Although this is Dusseldorf’s first entry into the sector in South America, it first started a partnership with Corferias in 2017 as partner for Meditech Colombia.

Other countries than China are starting to show signs of life in re-opening their exhibition businesses. In the USA, the governor of Nevada has announced that Las Vegas will allow 50% capacity of large meetings in Las Vegas, and Chicago, Boston, and Texas have all announced that they would start opening up events.

The fast rollout of vaccinations in the UK means that they are on track to have all restrictions lifted by 21 June and it is fitting that the first major event will be Confex – the exhibition for the live events sector – scheduled for 22-23 June. This promises to be a big party for the industry.

As more countries open up to exhibitions throughout 2021 we will undoubtedly see more collaborations as organisers look for the quickest way back to profitability.