M&A wrap: McDonald’s, Nordstrom, Huntsman, S&P, TripAdvisor, Wind Point, Retail Tech M&A

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Voice and text-assisted technology, including Amazon.com Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AMZN) Alexa device, is becoming ubiquitous in everyday shopping routines, as we discover in the fifth part of Mergers & Acquistions’ 7-part series, Retail Tech M&A. Here's our look at voice and text assisted technology: Voice shopping on Alexa will rapidly rise, ranging from ordering food to restocking refrigerators, according to industry reports, and retailers are figuring out how to take advantage. McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) is buying Apprente, a maker of voice-based conversational technology. The target offers software for complex, multilingual, multi-accent and multi-item conversational ordering. McDonald’s wants to use Apprente’s software for “faster, simpler and more accurate order taking” at its drive-thrus, and potentially for mobile ordering and kiosks. Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN), purchased two messaging technology companies, BevyUp and MessageYes, in 2018. BevyUp allows sales employees to communicate with each other and encourages shoppers to share information and browse together online. With the MessageYes technology, customers can respond with “Yes” to one of Nordstrom’s messages to instantly buy products from their phones.

The holiday shopping season is well under way, the biggest period of the year for the retail industry. Mergers & Acquisitions is covering many M&A trends in the sector. This week we're featuring the fourth installment of a weekly series on the 7 technologies retailers are investing in: Retail Tech M&A #1: Nike, McDonald's, PayPal, add customization, IoT. Retail Tech M&A #2: Why Walmart and other retailers are buying artificial intelligence startups. Retail Tech M&A #3: Amazon leads race to build fulfillment centers. Retail Tech M&A #4: Do robots fill orders faster? Retail Tech M&A #5: Voice recognition gives retailers more ways to communicate. Analytics give retailers a better understanding of consumer behavior and habits. Mobile payment processing provides consumers with on-the-go convenience. Check back every week for a new installment. Check out, Retail Tech M&A: 7 Technologies Driving Change.

Note: Due to special projects, there will not be an M&A daily wrap column on Monday, December 9, We'll resume publishing the M&A daily wrap column on Tuesday, December 10.

DEAL NEWS
Huntsman Corp. (NYSE: HUN) is buying Icynene-Lapolla, a manufacturer of spray foam products, from FFL Partners for $350 million. "As the demand for energy efficiency continues to grow, both in residential and commercial construction, this combination of companies will provide Huntsman with the largest global array of spray foam technology," says Huntsman CEO Peter Huntsman. Kirkland & Ellis is representing Huntsman.

S&P Global (NYSE: SPGI) has acquired 451 Research, a research and advisory firm that offers research and data that covers the high-growth technology sectors, including artificial intelligence, cloud and Internet of Things.

TripAdvisor Inc. (Nasdaq: TRIP) has bought menu management company SinglePlatform. The target helps restaurants publish and keep their menus updated online. TripAdvisor says about 93 percent of diners look at menus online before deciding where to eat.

Wind Point Partners has invested in Tropicale Foods. The latter produces frozen traditional Hispanic Foods, such as paletas, bolis and mangonada cups. Winston & Strawn advised Wind Point. NPW and Focalpoint Partners advised Tropicale.

Core Industrial Partners-backed Midwest Composite Technologies has acquired digital molding manufacturer Icomold. MCT and Winston & Strawn advised Core. Stifel advised Icomold.

Transportation Insight has purchased freight brokerage company Meridian Logistics. K&L Gates advised the buyer. NTG and Kastner Gravelle LLP advised Meridian.

For more deal announcements, see Weekly wrap: Astellas, Cleveland-Cliffs, PepsiCo.

For more on fundraising, see PE fundraising scorecard: HGGC, Pinebridge, Summit Investors.

PEOPLE MOVES
First Reserve has announced the passing of founder and chairman, William “Bill” E. Macaulay. After graduating from the City College of New York and receiving an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, Macaulay spent 10 years with Oppenheimer & Co. Inc, where he served as director of corporate finance and then assumed the role of general partner, as well as president of Oppenheimer Energy Corp. In 1983, Macaulay founded First Reserve with John Hill, with the vision of creating the first global private equity firm exclusively focused on energy. Over his more than three decades at the firm, Macaulay pioneered industry-specialist PE investing. As CEO, he expanded the firm’s focus and established a global reach – the impact of which has been felt broadly in the energy space through the establishment, growth and stewardship of some of the industry’s bellwethers. Macaulay is survived by his wife of 52 years, Linda, and their daughters Elizabeth and Anne and their families.

Stephen Wrobel has joined Hilco Corporate Finance as a managing director where he is reponsible for business development. Wrobel was most recently the head of debt capital markets at Balmoral Advisors.

David Wong was hired by Alvarez & Marsal's private equity services group where he is leading software and and technology diligence.

FEATURED CONTENT
At Mergers & Acquisitions, we're covering the philanthropic and volunteer initiatives underway in the private equity industry. Last year, we published The Big Give, an in-depth look at how private equity firms are contributing. Efforts have continued to flourish, fueled by younger Millennials seeking to build a better future and by mature partners considering the legacy they will leave behind. Read our full coverage: Private equity gives back: Vista's Robert F. Smith, Clearlake's José E. Feliciano, Riverside employees.

Albertsons, Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), Stop & Shop and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) are building automated mini-warehouses and "dark stores" to make deliveries and prepare pickup orders. Mini-warehouses are usually attached to existing stores, and in most cases, "dark stores" are completely separate. Both formats are closed off to customers, and are mostly automated. They use the assistance of robots for speed, save on labor, and get orders out faster. Kroger bought a five percent stake in robotics firm Ocado. Read our full coverage: Smart supermarkets become popular, as Kroger, Walmart add them.

It’s a milestone year for the Blackstone Group Inc. (NYSE: BX), which transitioned from a publicly traded partnership to a corporation on July 1. The New York firm announced the final close of its latest global real estate fund recently. With $20.5 billion of total capital commitments, Blackstone Real Estate Partners IX is the largest real estate fund ever raised. Mergers & Acquisitions spoke with Stephen A. Schwarzman, the firm’s co-founder, chairman and CEO. Read the full story: "Complete control" is the beauty of private equity, says Blackstone's Stephen A. Schwarzman.

The private equity model has held up very well over the decades, continuing to outperform the public markets, even as economic cycles come and go. But the rate of growth has slowed, leading PE firms to seek adjacent areas of business to expand. As PE firms face increased pressure to produce higher returns on their investments, many of them are turning to a familiar area of business: lending. Adams Street Partners, Balance Point Capital, Carlyle and VSS are all actively engaged in lending. Read the full story: Private equity firms are becoming lenders. Here’s why.

Prokanga is a unique recruiting firm that offers full-time and flexible recruiting services. Prokanga is managed by co-founders Jamie Cheney and Lesley Finer (pictured). Mergers & Acquisitions spoke with Finer, who has more than 10 years of recruiting for the finance industry and leads the finance practice at Prokanga. For more, see Why financial services pros need flexibility.

Looking for a glimpse of what’s to come in the private equity industry? Meet Mergers & Acquisitions' 2019 Rising Stars of Private Equity. As the PE industry undergoes a generational shift, and many firm founders retire, it’s well worth getting to know these emerging leaders, including Branford's Austin Collier, Sterling Partners' Shawn Domanic and Summit Partners' Sophia Popova. For profiles and video interviews, see Meet Mergers & Acquisitions' 2019 Rising Stars of Private Equity. For Q&As, see 10 Rising Stars of Private Equity tell their tales.

To celebrate deals, dealmakers and dealmaking firms, Mergers & Acquisitions produces three special reports every year: the M&A Mid-Market Awards; the Rising Stars of Private Equity; and the Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. For more on the timeline and nomination process for each, see Special reports overview: M&A Mid-Market Awards, Rising Stars, Most Influential Women.

EVENTS
CB Insights hosts The Collective, featuring 30-plus fireside chats, at New World Stages Dec. 10-11. Mergers & Acquisitions editor-in-chief Mary Kathleen Flynn is slated to conduct interviews with Lance Barton, head of corporate development for dating site developer Match Group, and Lawrence Lee, a partner with law firm Baker McKenzie.

The Annual AM&AA Winter Conference is taking place in Scottsdale, Arizon fron Jan. 8-10.

Deal Wave is being hosted by ACG Orange Country at the Ritz-Carlton-Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California on Jan. 9.

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