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Mergers and acquisitions continue at steady clip in Finland

Finland has been witnessing a high number of mergers and acquisitions, as companies have been re-evaluating their portfolios and reinvesting their funds in pursuit of growth.

Adobe / nungning20

In spite of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, news of mergers and acquisitions have continued to trickle in steadily in Finland.

Merger and acquisition activity in the country was higher in the first quarter of the year than the corresponding periods in 2020, 2019 and 2017, according to KPMG Finland. The activity slowed down momentarily at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the first half of last year but rebounded promptly to earlier levels.

The technology sector, in particular, has flourished in the trying times, raising its share of the volume from 20 per cent in 2017–2019 to 30 per cent in 2020–2021.

The quarter followed what was an unprecedented three-month period in terms of both the volume and pace of mergers and acquisitions, PWC Finland reported in February. Finland saw a total of 15 domestic and 18 cross-border transactions in the three months between October and December.

KPMG Finland in September revealed many of its clients expect merger and acquisition activity to remain high for the next couple of years as companies re-evaluate their portfolios and reinvest their funds in pursuit of growth.

Some of the more recent activity has been motivated by expertise in recycled fertilisers, sustainable packaging, transport infrastructure, and game and software development.

Huhtamäki and Tuxera add expertise

Huhtamäki, an Espoo-headquartered food packaging specialist, announced last month it has continued to implement its growth strategy by supplementing its flexible packaging business with Turkey’s Elif.

The 412 million-euro acquisition, it highlighted, aligns with its strategic objectives by enabling it to leverage the economies of scale in key geographies, improve its capabilities and boost its competitiveness. With Elif already boasting a product range that is mostly recyclable or compostable, the acquisition supports the sustainability ambitions of Huhtamäki. The Finnish packaging supplier has pledged to make sure all of its products are designed to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by the end of the decade.

Espoo, Finland-based Huhtamäki is committed to making sure all of its products are designed recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2030. Image: Huhtamäki

“With a great portfolio, a strong focus on sustainability and high growth ambitions, Elif is a perfect fit for Huhtamäki,” viewedCharles Héaulmé, CEO of Huhtamäki.

“We are looking forward to build on the existing strong foundations together, to further grow the business and deliver innovative sustainable packaging solutions to current and new customers globally.”

With manufacturing facilities in Istanbul, Turkey, and Cairo, Egypt, Elif had a staff of roughly 1 500 and reported a revenue of 170 million euros in 2020. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval in Turkey.

Helsinki-based Tuxera reported it has reached an agreement to acquire HCC Embedded, a Hungarian developer of embedded file systems, flash management and network data transfer software.

The acquisition makes its offering of data storage and network management software the largest in the industry while both placing further emphasis on safety and mission-critical data and solidifying its commitment to delivering reliable data management solutions in a world increasingly fuelled by data.

“With the networking and middleware components of HCC Embedded, we’re able to provide a more comprehensive portfolio of solutions spanning the entire life cycle of data management,” toldTuukka Ahoniemi, CEO of Tuxera.

“Expanding our team will also allow us to more effectively provide engineering services in Central Europe.”

The demand for data storage solutions is expected to boom as the amount of data generated worldwide continues to rise. Image: Azamat Esenaliev / Pexels

The International Data Corporation has forecast that global data generation will surge to 175 zettabytes by 2025, driving up the need for storage capacity across media types. As the global reliance on data for real-time decision-making increases, the requirements for safe and secure data management will become more stringent.

Finnish expertise in organic fertilisers, traffic infrastructure acquired

Yara Suomi, the Finnish subsidiary of Norway-headquartered Yara, in September announced it is foraying into the organic fertiliser segment with the acquisition of Ecolan, a Finnish company specialising in the production of recycled fertilisers from industrial side streams.

The acquisition also reflects the multinational company’s commitment to assume a greater role in organic farming and contribute to the circular economy.

“By expanding our offerings into the growing organic farming segment in Europe, we can help improve nutrient use efficiency in this segment by capitalising on our deep crop nutrition knowledge,” commentedMónica Andrés, executive vice president at Yara Europe. “Our core competence lies in managing nutrients in the most sustainable and efficient way, whether this is for organic farming or conventional farming.”

“We want to be the leading partner for all farmers, regardless of which farming system they use.”

Ecolan utilises industrial side streams to produce high-quality fertilisers for agriculture and forestry. Image: Yara Ecolan

The two companies had co-operated on research and development for years before the acquisition. Yara Suomi in 2019 introduced to the Finnish market an organic fertiliser with a high nitrogen content that was produced by Ecolan.

“We have had good co-operation during the past years,” told Timo Räsänen, head of speciality products for the Nordics and Baltics at Yara.

Combining Yara and Ecolan’s knowledge, expertise and resources, he added, is a way to accelerate the development and widen the market reach of recycled fertilisers also outside Finland.

France’s Colas in August announced it has signed an agreement to acquire all outstanding shares in Destia, a Finnish road, rail and energy infrastructure giant, from Helsinki-based family-owned private equity company Ahlström Capital.

Destia, formerly the Finnish Road Administration, generated 564 million euros in revenue last year as it continued to design, build and maintain not only traffic infrastructure, but also industrial and residential environments in Finland. Francis Grass, managing director at Colas for Europe, Middle East and Asia, said Destia appealed to the company especially with its skills and expertise in digitalising construction sites and maintenance services in harsh weather conditions.

“We see the opportunity to further develop business lines such as rail, and earth and rock services,” he stated. “Colas will bring onboard its expertise in complex projects management.”

Destia and its predecessors have looked after Finnish road and other traffic infrastructure since the late 1700s. Image: Ashley / Pexels

Lasse Heinonen, CEO of Ahlström Capital, said Destia has strengthened its capabilities in a number of key business areas, including digitalising the maintenance business. The change in ownership, he viewed, leaves the infrastructure giant “in good hands for the next phase of its growth journey”.

The transaction is to be closed by year-end, pending the approval of antitrust authorities.

Playtika turns to Finnish game expertise

Reworks, a Helsinki-based game studio known for its interior design game Redecor, has been moved into the majority ownership of Israel’s Playtika.

Playtika in September announced it has acquired an 80-per cent stake in the game studio for approximately 340 million US dollars and agreed to acquire the remaining 20 per cent for up to 200 million US dollars. The price of the remaining shares is contingent on the earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation reported by Reworks in 2022.

In the event that the performance target is not met, the remaining shares will change hands for one dollar.

“As the fragmented and historically offline market of home décor continues to expand onto digital channels, Reworks offers us a compelling opportunity to establish a leading presence in a category that clearly commands a lot of interest and will potentially serve as a foundation to enter further areas beyond traditional gaming,” commentedRobert Antokol, CEO of Playtika.

Also home décor is expected to move from the physical to the digital. Image: Maksim Goncharenok / Pexels

Redecor has grown into the second most popular design entertainment app by in-app purchase revenue in the 18 months that have transpired since its launch.

“In Redecor, we set out to build a leading entertainment product for the design community and are thrilled to be able to accelerate its growth with a partner like Playtika,” said Ilkka Teppo, CEO of Reworks.

Playtika said it intends to leverage its expertise to grow the game into a destination for design enthusiasts for years to come.

“Redecor provides amazing entertainment to design enthusiasts and we intend to utilize our expertise in mobile gaming, live-ops and technology to take it to new heights. Reworks’ talented team will enable us to build new apps in-house to drive future organic growth across the broader digital entertainment and app ecosystems,” stated Antokol.

Reworks was the fifth largest game studio in Finland in 2020, according to Talouselämä. It reported net sales of 41.8 million euros and an operating profit of 291 000 euros in 2020, the former signalling a year-on-year jump of 8 000 per cent.

Zervant, an Espoo-based provider of an invoicing solution tailor made for small-business owners, has been incorporated into the business tool offering of Ageras Group. The tools offered by the group have been used by over one million freelancers and small businesses worldwide.

Mattias Hansson, one of the two founders of Zervant, stated that the demand for invoicing services is booming.

“Zervant has undergone annual growth of more than 50 per cent during the pandemic. As Europe is rapidly transitioning to electronic invoicing and the PSD2 directive offers new opportunities, we can offer genuine added value to our customers,” he said.

By: Aleksi Teivainen