In this article, we will take a look at the private equity scene in Europe for IT services companies, such as software developers, IT consultants and managed service providers. More specifically, we will analyze the recent trends and important figures over the past 10 years, as well as provide you with a list of the most active IT private equity investors in Europe.

For the analysis, we used Mergermarket and classified IT companies as “Computer Services,” which encompasses the following sub-sectors: Data Processing, Hardware Maintenance, IT Consulting, and IT Training. Our dataset includes 3,915 deals across Europe, of which labeled 956 as financial acquisitions. It is also important to note that our analysis through Mergermarket starts on January 1, 2014, and extends through June 13, 2024.

IT Investments in Europe between 2014 and 2024

IT Services has been a growing industry over the past 10 years, with a significant increase in M&A interest over the past 10 years. Although the IT landscape in Europe is not yet on par with that of the United States or India and remain fragmented, many investors are already recognizing the potential they have to offer.

Private Equity firms, in particular, have been active in the market with roll-up strategies, acquiring a platform company and then consolidating smaller players through add-on acquisitions. IT companies are seen as attractive investments for private equity firms, offering consolidation potential and immediate synergies in back office or sales.

As seen in the chart above, the proportion of financial acquisitions has been increasing steadily, reaching its peak in 2023.

In terms of geographical focus, it’s no surprise that Western Europe dominates the rankings when it comes to IT services acquisitions. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany house some of the most intellectually gifted and innovative experts in information technology, generating significant interest from potential buyers.

However, when looking at the proportion of financial buyers in each country, the playing field is more spread out, and there is no clear correlation. This indicates that private equity firms aren’t particularly concerned with geography when evaluating potential acquisitions; their primary focus is on the quality and potential of the company.

We have explored the trends in private equity buyouts and the geographic landscape. Now, let’s take a holistic view and examine the acquisition prices. Interestingly, financial buyers tend to pay higher premiums compared to strategic buyers. One of the reasons could be the fact private equity firms usually follow the roll-up strategy and combine the acquired companies to achieve synergies. In our experience, EV/EBITDA multiples are the primary valuation metric for these transactions, as EBITDA closely approximates cash flow.

Most active Private Equity Investors in Information Technology Services in Europe

1) Holland Capital Management

Overview: Holland Capital Management is a Dutch-based private equity and venture capital firm with EUR 500m under management. They focus on later-stage, emerging growth, restructuring, recapitalization, and buy-out opportunities, investing in small and medium-sized enterprises operating in the healthcare, technology, and agrifood industries.

Geographic Focus: Netherlands, Germany

Investment Criteria:

  • Equity Ticket:  €0.25m – €10m
  • Enterprise Value: €5m – €50m
  • Stake: Minimum 20% equity stake

Key Offices: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Dusseldorf, Germany

2) LDC

Overview: LDC is a UK-based private equity and venture capital firm focused on helping businesses achieve strategic growth by providing growth capital, acquisition financing, and expansion capital. They also engage in buyouts and invest in middle-market firms across a wide range of sectors including consumer, industrials, healthcare, media, and technology.

Geographic Focus: United Kingdom

Investment Criteria:

  • Equity Ticket: £10m – £100m
  • Enterprise Value: £12m – £300m

Key Offices: Based in London, UK, with additional offices throughout the UK

3) BGF Investment Management

Overview: BGF is one of the most active private equity firms in the UK and Ireland. They specialize in growth funding and acquisitions for middle-market small and medium-sized enterprises, investing in a wide range of industries including tech, AI, business services, energy, healthcare, and infrastructure.

Geographic Focus: UK and Ireland

Investment Criteria:

  • Equity Ticket:  £1m – £20m
  • Revenue: £1m – £100m
  • Stake: Seeks minority stake between 10% – 40%
  • Exit Horizon: Around 10 years
  • Board Representation: Prefers to take a board seat

Key Offices: Dublin, Ireland; Edinburgh, Scotland; London, England; and additional offices throughout the UK

4) Waterland

Overview: Waterland is one of the largest and most prominent private equity firms in Europe, having raised over EUR 14b. They specialize in buy-and-build, add-on acquisitions, growth financing, buyouts, restructuring, and privatization investments for middle-market small and medium-sized companies focused on healthcare, digitalization, or sustainability.

Geographic Focus: Special focus on companies in Northern Europe with decision centers in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Poland

Investment Criteria:

  • Equity Ticket: €2m – €25m
  • Revenue: €10m – €200m
  • Stake: Prefers to acquire majority stake but also considers minority stakes

Key Offices: Headquartered in Bussum, Netherlands, with additional offices in Europe, including London, Munich, Paris, Warsaw, and Zurich

5) Inflexion Private Equity Partners

Overview: Inflexion is a private equity firm that specializes in growth capital and acquisitions of lower-middle-market businesses. The firm typically invests in founder-owned businesses operating in expanding markets across industries such as business services, energy, healthcare, consumer, and TMT.

Geographic Focus: Europe

Investment Criteria:

  • Equity Ticket: £10m – £500m
  • Enterprise Value: £10m – £1,000m
  • Stake: Prefers minority and majority stake

Key Offices: Headquartered in London, UK, with additional offices in Europe, Asia, South America, and North America

6) Ardian

Overview: Ardian is one of the largest European private investment firms. They operate within private equity, real assets, and private credit. Ardian is a leader in secondary fund investments and seeks to acquire medium and large-cap companies in their private equity division. They invest in a wide range of industries including consumer, construction, transportation, technology, aerospace, and healthcare.

Geographic Focus: Global

Investment Criteria:

  • Equity Ticket: €1m – €1,500m
  • Revenue: €2m – €4,000m
  • Enterprise Value: €10m – €2,000m
  • Stake: Prefers minority or majority stake
  • Exit Horizon: Typically 5 – 8 years

Key Offices: Headquartered in Paris, with additional global offices in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East

7) Keensight Capital

Overview: Keensight Capital is a private equity and venture capital firm with EUR 5.5b under management. They specialize in early venture, late venture, growth buyouts, build-ups, and recapitalization investments. They primarily focus on IT, media, software, and other industries including healthcare.

Geographic Focus: Developed European markets

Investment Criteria:

  • Equity Ticket: €10m – €600m
  • Revenue: €10m – €400m
  • Stake: Prefers minority or majority stake
  • Board Representation: Prefers to have board representation

Key Offices: Paris, France; London, UK; Boston, USA; and Singapore

8) Strikwerda Investments

Overview: Strikwerda Investments is a Dutch-based private equity firm with a specific focus on the IT market. They have made over 200 acquisitions in total throughout their group companies.

Geographic Focus: Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg

Investment Criteria:

  • Revenue: Min €10m
  • Stake: Prefers majority stake

Key Offices: Netherlands

Sources: Mergermarket, S&P Capital IQ