Shrewd dealmakers know no bounds. So, "even in difficult financial circumstances, as we've seen in some European Union countries, there are great opportunities," Gary LaBranche, president and CEO of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), explains.
The ACG, as our coverage proves, already has plenty of chapters scattered across the U.S., each with its unique identity and dealmaking community. InterGrowth, the organization's annual event, draws some 2,000 middle-market dealmakers each year to a different U.S. city and has proven to be a popular venue for networking and conducting business.
With chapters cropping up in Europe over the past year-namely in the U.K., France, Holland and Germany-an equivalent to InterGrowth is finally coming to fruition across the pond.
EuroGrowth, which is being held at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel in London from Nov. 12 to 13, will be smaller in scope than InterGrowth, but it aims to be just as productive.
"It will give the opportunity for all our European members to get together with members from throughout ACG in an InterGrowth-like experience," LaBranche says.
"There's nothing like that in Europe," says Charlie Johnstone (pictured right), a director at private equity firm ECI Partners LLP in London and co-chair for the event. "The middle market is increasingly global and to be in private equity means supporting portfolio companies on a global basis," Johnstone adds.
"EuroGrowth can be used to harness and enhance the globalization of mid-market M&A," he explains.
William Blair's Stewart Licudi (pictured below), who is also one of the co-chairs of the event, agrees.
"The goal is to try and emulate the conference in the States, which has been hugely successful," Licudi says, describing EuroGrowth as a fresh alternative to the many dealmaking conferences that have taken place in the U.K. in the past.
"Quality networking events have been available, but they tend to be very focused, whether it is just on private equity or turnaround specialists," says Licudi, who is also managing director and head of European financial sponsor coverage for the Chicago-based investment bank. "What we wanted to do was create a networking event for a broad range of people who are interested in international M&A and expansion."
For Johnstone and Licudi, the general sessions are among the highlights of the conference. Keynote speakers include Marc Brown head of corporate development, mergers and acquisitions and strategic investments at Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT).
Brown helped lead some of Microsoft's major acquisitions in recent years, including the 2011 purchase of Skype Technologies SA for more than $8.5 billion and the 2012 take over of social network Yammer Inc. for $1.2 billion.
When asked to explain the relevance of the keynote speeches to the conference attendees, Licudi cites the importance of attracting strategic dealmakers to the same venue as financial sponsors.
"We wanted someone who has experienced M&A on a global scale," Licudi says. "You don't quite get many of them in the same room with private equity guys so this is an opportunity for them to meet," Licudi says. "It will be interesting to see why Microsoft is going down a certain route and how Brown's view won't be the same as the private equity view."
Also on deck is Steve Garnett, the European chairman of cloud computing business Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM), which has been an active acquirer throughout 2013.
In July Salesforce.com completed the purchase of cloud marketing vendor ExactTarget Inc. for $2.5 billion, while in May, it spent $12 million on Clipboard Inc., a web service that allows users to highlight and "clip" content into a digital storage locker as a means to view it later.
Garnett is expected to lead a panel focusing on technology, media and telecommunications.
Also speaking is Deloitte UK vice chairman Cahal Dowds, who advised the recent sale of U.K. yachtmaker Sunseeker International to Beijing-based Dalian Wanda for around £300 million (U.S.$468.9 million). He is expected to share his thoughts on deal trends, especially the string of British companies being snapped up by M&A-eager Chinese buyers in recent years, Johnstone predicts.
Beyond the speeches and the formal breakout sessions, EuroGrowth will offer a variety of opportunities to network informally with other dealmakers and develop new leads. While ACG members may be accustomed to finding a buyer or new client at InterGrowth, the U.K. counterpart is expected to lay the groundwork for young dealmakers or those who are exploring cross-border M&A for the first time.
"I don't think it will be as fast and furious as it is in the U.S., although it may be like that in the future," says Licudi, who attended InterGrowth 2013 in Orlando. At InterGrowth "people are coming ready to do a deal, with letters of intent flying around," he adds. "The way business is done in Europe is a little different and I think EuroGrowth will be a little more about forming relationships to build on to get deals done."
His tips for EuroGrowth attendees include: "Study the program and figure out what's uninteresting to you. There's a lot going on and you want to be in the right place at the right time. Too often you walk out at the end of a two-day conference wondering, 'I didn't really make the most of that.' Here, you're going to have a lot of conversations. Be open about your objectives and what you're trying to achieve."