In a world where gaining, retaining and understanding data on customer behavior is increasingly difficult, detailed information is more important than ever. Data providers for retailers are in great demand, and they have become valuable acquisition targets, particularly among strategic buyers. For instance, Sutherland Global Services Inc. has purchased venture capital-backed data analytics firm Nuevora to strengthen its digital services division. The deal allows for customers to use predictive insights to monetize their data assets.

But it isn’t just retailers that are looking for data providers to help them improve their businesses. Deal activity is robust in the financial services space as well, with investment banks and other financial organizations needing custom information.

“Data is more valuable today in certain situations. People want to make more sustainable decisions based on analytics,” says Ken Schiciano, TA Associates managing director.

Dealmakers expect most deals to come from strategic buyers. One recent notable deal in the data sector was ION Investment Group acquiring a majority stake in analytics provider Dealogic from the Carlyle Group LP (Nasdaq: CG) and Euromoney. Dealmakers often rely on Dealogic’s data to indentify potential M&A opportunities.

“I don’t think data is that exciting to private equity. They build a mouse trap that allows strategic buyers to build a bigger mouse trap for data providers,” says Ajay Asija, B. Riley FBR senior managing director. “How do you monetize the value of customers and the information you have? The timing is important because you have companies focusing on it.”

Here are seven recent deals featuring strategic buyers that have been snatching up financial data providers:

1. ION acquires stake in Dealogic
ION Investment Group’s acquisition of a majority stake in Dealogic underscores the extent to which financial research companies have become attractive to buyers.

“Dealogic has a tremendous set of core data,” says Schiciano of TA Associates. “Ion will be able to refresh the technology.” Based in New York, Dealogic provides M&A and other financial analytics to financial services firms globally including each of the world’s top 50 investment banks. Dealogic’s main competitors include Bloomberg.

Carlyle and Dealogic’s management team are keeping a stake in Dealogic, while Euromoney—the European financial publisher-- is selling its 15.5 percent stake for about $135 million. Carlyle and Euromoney invested in Dealogic in 2014.

“We are excited to partner with ION and will benefit from the strength of their platforms and their established network of relationships with financial institutions and corporations,” says Tom Fleming, Dealogic CEO.

“Together we will be able to accelerate the digitization and automation of capital markets and introduce innovations to how financial institutions, investors and issuers conduct their business,” says Andrea Pignataro, ION CEO. Dublin-based ION provides market trading software to banks and other financial firms. UBS advised ION and is providing financing. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is advising Dealogic.

2. Morningstar purchases PitchBook
In December 2016, Morningstar Inc. (Nasdaq: MORN) acquired the 80 percent of PitchBook Data Inc. that it did not already own. The $180 million transaction expanded Morningstar’s deal research into private companies, since Morningstar mainly focuses on public companies. Seattle-based PitchBook, founded in 2007, delivers private capital market data on private equity and M&A, covering the full deal lifecycle.

“Data has always been Morningstar’s sweet spot, and we look forward to working with PitchBook to help investors and advisers better understand and navigate this evolving area of the market,” said Kunal Kapoor, Morningstar president, at the time of the deal. “Both Morningstar and PitchBook share the goal of bringing transparency to the investment landscape, and PitchBook is in a great position to continue its strong growth trajectory as private markets and private companies are areas of rapidly growing investor interest.”

Morningstar, headquartered in Chicago, originally invested $1.2 million in PitchBook in a Series A round in September 2009 and another $10.0 million in a Series B in January 2016, amassing a 20 percent stake before the deal was announced.

“As investors increasingly broaden their horizons beyond traditional public markets and investments, the multi-asset capabilities Morningstar is building will become even more valuable,” said John Gabbert, PitchBook CEO, in 2016.

3. Markit adds Symphony-backed CoreOne
Financial information services company IHS Markit (Nasdaq: MRKT) bought CoreOne Technologies from Symphony Technology Group for $200 million in 2015. The acquisition expanded Markit’s services into prime brokerage services.

New York-based CoreOne provides regulatory reporting and other data management to hedge funds, investment banks and wealth managers. STG formed CoreOne in 2008 when the Palo Alto, California-based private equity firm bought financial data services company Netik from the Bank of New York Mellon Corp (NYSE: BK).

“I think there’s more interest, more talk, more people looking at it. All these businesses have a unique angle,” says Steve Pierson, president of Lovell Minnick Partners. Lovell Minnick is a financial services-focused private equity firm that invests up to $100 million in equity.

“CoreOne is a great fit for Markit. Their services will strengthen our offerings and will allow us to better serve our customers,” said Lance Uggla, Markit CEO, when the deal was announced. “The transaction is consistent with our long-term strategy to accelerate organic growth through acquisitions.”

CoreOne was not the only acquisition that London-based Markit made in 2015. In July 2015, Markit completed the purchase of trade securities software firm Mosaic for undisclosed terms and in March 2015, Markit said it would buy the Halifax House Index from Lloyds Banking Group for undisclosed terms.

4. Broadridge strengthens data services
Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc. (NYSE: BR) agreed to acquire Morningstar Inc.’s 15(c) board consulting services business for undisclosed terms. The acquisition will strengthen Broadridge’s ability to provide verifiable data to mutual fund boards of directors to help them fulfill their governance responsibilities. The consulting services business provides materials to the boards of directors and executive teams of mutual funds to assist them in reviewing and approving fee agreements with each of their investment advisers.

“The expanded breadth and depth of our data-driven solutions will continue to enhance the value we provide to our investment management clients and set the standard for the financial services industry,” says Dan Cwenar, Broadridge’s head of buyside data and analytics. Lake Success, New York-based Broadridge provides data and analytics services to insurers, retail bankers and wealth managers.

“Morningstar is sharpening its focus on delivering its fund data and analytics to as many users as possible,” says Scott Burns, head of data and research products at Morningstar. “With this transaction, Broadridge’s 15(c) consultants and client base can now utilize Morningstar’s industry-standard data and calculations to help fund boards fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders.”

5. Nasdaq grows buyside services
Nasdaq Inc. (Nasdaq: NDAQ) acquired analytics provider eVestment Alliance LLC for $705 million. The acquisition will advance Nasdaq’s global information services business.

Atlanta-based eVestment has a database for both traditional and alternative investors that helps them make investment decisions. Its clients include 92 percent of the top asset managers such as Morgan Stanley.

“The investment management community is relying increasingly on independent data and advanced analytics to drive their key business decisions, including asset allocation and investment choices,” says Adena Friedman, Nasdaq CEO.

“Our leadership team is excited to join Nasdaq,” says Jim Minnick, eVestment co-founder. “We believe the combined organization will allow us to grow our core business while tapping into Nasdaq’s technology expertise, leading data and software products, and global distribution. We’ve grown this business at a 12% annual growth rate since 2013, and together, we expect to produce new and expanded opportunities for our clients by combining our proprietary capabilities with Nasdaq’s core information services offerings.”

eVestment is not the only significant acquisition Nasdaq made in 2017. The company also bought London-based Sybenetix. The target uses surveillance technology to analyze the behavior of traders in an effort to prevent market abuse.

6. Thomson Reuters buys two data companies
Thomson Reuters bought two technology companies in 2017 that specialize in know-your-customer (KYC) and reference data, as part of an ongoing M&A strategy to expand its data services for financial institutions.

The news and information company acquired Clarient, a client reference data platform, and Avox, a supplier of legal entity data on financial entities globally, both from the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Clarient was founded by the DTCC with the participation of Barclays, Bank of New York Mellon, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs & Co. (NYSE: GS), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) and State Street. Avox matches, enriches and maintains legal entity reference data for its clients.

“Clarient and Avox have made a significant impact addressing the industry’s client reference data and lifecycle management requirements, reducing both cost and risk for our clients,” says Steve Pulley, Clarient CEO.

The deals come as the increasing demands by regulators for transparency in financial transactions have spurred the creation in recent years of industry KYC registries, designed to reduce compliance costs for banks and duplicative paperwork for clients.

7. Verisk powers up energy information
Data analytics provider Verisk Analytics Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSK) reached a deal in November 2017 to acquire Boston-based PowerAdvocate for up to $280 million to expand into energy research.

“The acquisition will expand Verisk’s existing offerings to the energy sector by adding PowerAdvocate’s proprietary spend data and cost models. These enhanced offerings will provide our customers with unique insight to increase profitability,” says Scott Stephenson, CEO of Jersey City, New Jersey-based Verisk. PowerAdvocate offers information and insights into cost saving opportunities for customers by analyzing spending and cost data obtained from transactions across services, materials and equipment categories in the energy industry. The company’s data is designed to see if capital is being used efficiently.

As data providers become more valuable for corporations and financial firms, they will not likely make juicy investments for private equity firms. “It is a tough spot. You have to be in the right spot at the right time. You have to have a unique niche,” says Steve Pierson. “I think it’s going to be a tough sector for private equity.”

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Demitri Diakantonis

Demitri Diakantonis

Demitri Diakantonis joined SourceMedia in 2015 and serves as Managing Editor of Mergers & Acquisitions. He covers all aspects of middle-market deamaking, with a focus on strategic buyers and the consumer and retail sectors, and writes The Buyside column.