Don't look now, but there appears to be a major upswing in tech M&A activity in Europe

We're only two months into 2014, and we've already seen a lot of M&A action in Europe. Going back another four months paints a more interesting picture, and it looks like it will be bubbly year all around.
Don't look now, but there appears to be a major upswing in tech M&A activity in Europe

In the past six months (September 2013 - February 2014), there's been a spate of exits of European tech companies, from small acqui-hire deals to big takeovers and mergers, to mature startups filing to go public in different parts of the world. Have you been paying attention?

Well, we have. We took a step back to take a closer look at the increasing M&A activity in these parts, and what the future might bring.

Looking at the data and potential for more M&A action down the line, it looks like 2014 will turn out to be a good year for M&A exit returns in the European tech industry, which will hopefully fuel the expansion of high-growth startups, and the birth of exciting new ones.

M&At last

Exits have traditionally been a bit of an issue for tech startups coming out of Europe, but the world continues to get flatter, and it's starting to show.

Investors from the United States and Asia are increasingly getting familiar with the scene(s), and as Europe's most established startup ecosystems continue to mature, more funds are flowing this way, while big acquirers are no longer looking at Europe as a wasteland for opportunities.

Don't take our word for it, though. In the past six months (in order of deal size):

- Liberty Global bought Dutch cable company Ziggo for 10 billion euros ($13.7 billion) - King filed to go public and might top a $10 billion valuation - Microsoft acquired Nokia's devices unit in a $7.2 billion deal (yup, September 3) - SoftBank bought a $1.5 billion stake in Supercell, valuing it at $3 billion - Japan's Rakuten acquired Viber for $900 million - Zynga acquired NaturalMotion for $527 million - Google snapped up DeepMind for more than $500 million - Apple acquired PrimeSense for a reported $350 million - Criteo raised $250 million in a U.S. IPO - Facebook acquired Onavo for up to $200 million - McGraw-Hill Education bought Danish adaptive learning company Area9 for $180 million - Website builder Wix raised $127 million in an IPO that valued it at $750 million - Klarna bought Germany’s Sofort for $150 million - Yandex coughed up $80 million to acquire the movie and TV information website KinoPoisk - PE firm Francisco Partners acquired Avangate for (what we hear was) $80 million - Schibsted acquired Spain's Milanuncios for 50 million euros ($70 million) in cash. - GroupM acquired online advertising startup Plista for (what we heard was) $30 million - Criteo acquired Tedemis for $29 million - Telenav paid $24 million for mapping startup Skobbler - China-based Sungy acquired GetJar for $5.4 million

We're talking dozens of billions euros worth of deals, and those were just the acquisitions of which the price was disclosed (or reported by an authoritative source). There's more where that came from:

- Google acquired SlickLogin and in the span of one week - Earlier Google also acquired French startup FlexyCore - HootSuite acquired uberVU - Autodesk acquired open hardware community - Axel Springer acquired most of Runtastic, following a eight-digit euro investment deal - India's MakeMyTrip acquired hotel booking portal EasyToBook - FullContact acquired contact management app maker Cobook - Imperva acquired two Israeli cloud information security startups: Incapsula and Skyfence - Secret Escapes bought German rival JustBook - German media giant ProSiebenSat.1 bought mobile / online games publisher Aeria Games Europe. - Madrid-based Zuzeen merged with - took over the reigns of eBuddy - Swiss media group Tamedia acquired - Dailymotion acquired SublimeVideo creator Jilion - Splunk acquired Greece-based BugSense - Immowelt acquired Berlin-based startup Dreamflat - Euroscript International bought CMS provider Amplexor from its investors - Fonecta Enterprise Solutions bought Verkossa Media, Finland’s largest independent ad network - Linko acquired Berlin-based Localstream - Vistaprint acquired People & Print Group - Shopgate acquired Magento developer MagCorp - BlaBlaCar acquired Russian-Ukranian rival Podorozhniki - Distractify acqui-hired Belgium’s Trendolizer

And in some cases, European companies were the acquirers of foreign companies:

- Radionomy acquired Winamp and SHOUTcast from AOL - Sophos bought India's Cyberoam Technologies - Spanish bank BBVA acquired U.S.-based online banking startup Simple for $117 million

And we're just getting started. There are plenty more deals and floats in the pipeline.

What the future could bring

Rumoured to be hard at work at taking their shares public sooner rather than later are the likes of Spotify, eDreams Odigeo, Just-Eat,, Materialise, Zendesk and Zalando (our profile).

Other potential IPO candidates include Mind Candy (Moshi Monsters), Rovio (Angry Birds), Shazam, DataSift, Badoo, Klarna, Ozon and Vente-privé; and we're probably forgetting some.

Meanwhile, Dailymotion will likely be swallowed soon, it seems, and ISP Numericable has confirmed talks with Vivendi to purchase their ailing subsidiary SFR at a valuation of 15 billion euros.

Other European tech stars that are flying high in terms of valuation, and may be looking at a sizeable exit through M&A or IPO in the coming years include SoundCloud, Huddle, Mojang, Wooga, ASOS, Scytl, 6Wunderkinder, Withings, Avito, iZettle, Delivery Hero, Prezi, ResearchGate, Deezer, Songkick, Fon, Outfit7, Skyscanner, Nordeus, Trustpilot, SwiftKey and Socialbakers, to name only a few.

Yup, it's promising to be an interesting year.

For the record, that's not to say an acquisition or public market flotation should be the endgame for all startups, and that things can't get messed up post-IPO or purchase. Technology is also a very volatile industry, which means a lot can happen between now and December.

An upswing does not a long-term trend make.

Still, sometimes it's worth taking a step back to see what's going on, and what might be coming. And from where we're standing, it looks like tech M&A activity in Europe is most definitely intensifying, and that it's just the beginning of a much longer streak.

Featured image credit: drvarayu / Shutterstock

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