In our April Thought Leader Section, we look at the acquisition of one of Europe’s most-awarded creative independent agencies - Lemz, by Havas Group - one of the world’s largest communication groups. We had the opportunity to interview Adriana Roman-Holly – Director at Ciesco Group, who led the team that advised Lemz. Here she tells us about Ciesco Group’s involvement in the transaction and the challenges along the way, while also discussing the global M&A activity in 2016 and 2017.


Could you tell us a bit about the transaction and Ciesco Group’s involvement in it?

Havas Group (HAV:EN; market cap of €3.0bn), one of the world’s largest communication groups acquired Amsterdam-based Lemz, one of Europe’s most-awarded creative independent agencies.

Widely recognised as a pioneer of the pro-social marketing movement, Lemz uses its innovative creative consulting approach to “help brands make sense” by delivering creative campaigns that are meaningful, purpose-driven and socially relevant.

Building on their successful track record, Lemz shareholders acknowledged the need to address strategic growth options for the company to maximise the future prospects and value of the business. In Havas Group they have found a like-minded partner sharing similar strategic ambitions, passion and culture. Lemz will join forces with Havas Boondoggle, the Group’s existing Amsterdam-based creative agency. The new 80-talent-strong agency, “Havas Lemz”, will leverage on the Group’s Together strategy to build a powerful creative hub.

Ciesco Group acted as exclusive advisors to the shareholders of Lemz. We were mandated to seek a like-minded partner that would enable Lemz to operate on a larger scale and increase their impact on the social good scene, without compromising the high-quality creative output the agency has been known for. Havas Group was identified as the perfect fit in terms of vision, ambition, making sense support and chemistry with Lemz. We pursued a very structured process and managed the end-to-end process - from preparing the business for sale through to negotiation of the sale and purchase agreement on behalf of the shareholders with a major strategic player with complementary strengths.

Given Havas’s commitment to creating meaningful connections between people and brands through creativity, media and innovation and Lemz’s pro-social creative credentials, this transaction makes sense for all involved. It is a huge opportunity for Lemz, its talents and clients to benefit from becoming part of a bigger group. Using the creative firepower of Lemz, Havas can expect to deliver a number of stellar campaigns, while standing for something beyond advertising. The new 80-talent-strong agency Havas-Lemz is set to become the “most meaningful agency in the Netherlands”, a unique hub where ideas, people and talents flourish and turn into impactful integrated creativity.


What were the challenges in relation to finding the best possible partner for Lemz?

 A deal like this will always face multiple challenges. Finding the perfect partner who would share Lemz’s vision and ambitions, managing value expectations and execution risks were all critical. Through our unrivalled experience, individual approach and vast industry knowledge we worked together with Lemz shareholders and provided them with independent, sound advice, efficient execution and direct support throughout the process.


How would you describe 2016’s global M&A activity in technology enabled-media and marketing sectors?

 By all accounts, 2016 was an extraordinary year that brought with it a myriad of opportunities and challenges across the globe and presented a wide scope of issues and events. Despite the tumultuous year, M&A opportunities within the sector remained buoyant and firmly on the agenda of many corporates.

Each year our market intelligence team at Ciesco tracks global M&A transactions in the sector. We tracked 1,175 M&A transactions throughout 2016, an increase of 6% year on year in global deal activity. The announced deal values totaled over $82bn (excluding the three mega-deals), up 36% from the prior year. This marks the third consecutive year in which deal activity has increased. Marketing Technology remained the most active sector in 2016 in the digital, marketing, media and related technology industry. Despite being the most active sector, the number of deals announced fell by 12% to 102 deals (116 in 2015). As with the previous year, the Mobile sector was the second most popular sector behind Marketing Technology. Similarly to Marketing Technology, deal volume in the Mobile sector was also down slightly, from 102 in 2015 to 90 in 2016. The next most popular sectors were Advertising & Creative, Data & Analytics, Public Relations, Digital Media, and eCRM.

This remains an exciting and dynamic sector for M&A with new technology entrants, start-ups offering specific niche disciplines, a broad array of new media channels that are all combining to disrupt conventional models.


What is Ciesco’s outlook for M&A activity in 2017?

 We expect 2017 to be a busy year with new business models developing where their services are powered by sophisticated data capture and analysis and that fuse high quality real-time creative content with integrated media solutions for delivery and measurement through the new media channels. Independent media and data analytics businesses will command a premium valuation in 2017 M&A activity.

We also expect consultancies to continue to make inroads into the marketing sector with an emphasis on strategy/creative and digital services. This will continue to threaten the big agency networks who will struggle to compete with the combination of the traditional and new services now being delivered by the consultancy firms.


About Adriana Roman-Holly

Adriana leads Ciesco’s day to day corporate finance work both originating and working on a wide variety of transactions. Prior to joining Ciesco, she spent 5 years at Pall Mall Capital, a London-based investment banking boutique, handling corporate finance advisory and M&A transactions, as well as working on Equity and Debt placements across a wide range of sectors (business services, leisure, infrastructure, technology, consumer products, etc.). Her earlier career included US experience where she worked on US and international assignments at Brown Gibbons Lang & Company, a leading Midwest investment banking firm, as well as acting as a Project Manager for a London-based global consultancy firm specialising in business intelligence services.

Adriana has a MBA degree in Banking & Finance from Case Western Reserve University (US), as well as an MA in International Economic Relations.


Firm Profile

 Ciesco is a London-based boutique corporate finance advisory firm, specialising in M&A advisory and business strategy for the digital, media, marketing and technology sectors, with coverage of Europe, Asia and North America. Ciesco works with entrepreneurs and global corporates who require specialist advice on domestic or cross-border transactions, divestitures and business strategy, as well as private equity firms looking for growth or exit opportunities for their portfolio companies. Led by practitioners with deep industry experience and expertise within new media and disruptive technologies, Ciesco is able to deliver its clients independent and sound advice and execution, as well as access to an extensive network of direct contacts with high quality investors globally.