Our investment bankers publish timely updates on activity and trends in the advisory and financing markets. These publications provide statistical analysis and interpretation of activity in a variety of sectors.

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Few industries have been affected as immediately and drastically by the COVID-19 pandemic as the food and beverage industry. From our daily conversations with business owners, management teams, investors, and analysts throughout the industry, we know that these people and their teams are working diligently around the clock to ensure that the global food supply chain continues to meet the demands of this unprecedented challenge.

Bifurcation in the leveraged finance market became more pronounced during the fourth quarter, as investors continued their flight to quality. We examine this and other trends shaping leveraged finance markets as we head into 2020.

M&A activity and capital-raising in food and beverage slowed in 2019 but remained at healthy levels. The proliferation of plant-based foods and private-label offerings as well as the untapped potential of e-commerce should continue to drive growth and dealmaking in 2020 across the industry. 

IPO activity slowed moderately in 2019 despite equity markets having one of their strongest years in the past decade for investors. Uber’s and Lyft’s high-profile debuts grabbed headlines—while refocusing investors' attention on the path-to-profitability of unicorns still in the pipeline.

Overall M&A activity has softened due to slowing growth and increasing economic uncertainty. Specialty materials companies and sectors that are more insulated from a potential economic downturn, however, continue to command significant interest and attractive valuation multiples.

M&A activity in the chemicals space remains strong, although investors are increasingly differentiating between cyclical and noncyclical assets. Competition from financial sponsors has intensified as strategic buyers position for further dealmaking.

Positive market dynamics in the commercial, cargo, and defense aerospace markets are creating new opportunities for independent maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) companies.

Insurance services companies have seen a surge in M&A activity driven by strong top-line growth across the industry, acquirers’ increased appetite for defensive assets, the growing adoption of technology-enabled solutions, and industry dynamics that are leading to a consolidation wave.

As the amount of capital available to fund growth strategies and liquidity events for owners of firms that provide consulting, technology implementation, outsourcing, and other professional services grows, we examine the value drivers and unique considerations that leaders of professional services firms must take into account when preparing for a successful transaction. 

In addition to the growing attractiveness of noncyclical end-markets, the influx of private capital into packaging has resulted in fewer publicly traded companies and intense competition for platform assets. William Blair has completed 12 packaging transactions year-to-date.

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