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Complementary Product Portfolio Expansion Fueling M&A Activities
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The overall outlook for M&A activity continues to be positive as private equity investment in the space continues to grow at a healthy rate. The industry continues to be fragmented, which in turn provides an incentive to companies to consolidate. Additionally, companies are looking to become one-stop shop providers of PPE. Innovation continues to be incremental rather than groundbreaking. Acquisitions are unlikely to be driven by the need to acquire a new technology as the market is still in its acceptance of smart PPE. Product segments are in different stages of the maturity curve. For example, in Western Europe, gas detection, respiratory protection, industrial protective clothing, and fall protection are further along the maturity curve driving the need for further consolidation. Notable transactions in this period included 3M's acquisition of Scott Safety, Bunzl's acquisition of Tillman, MSA's acquisition of Globe Manufacturing, and Ansell's acquisition of Nitritex Limited. These acquisitions were mainly driven by the need to address gaps in the safety portfolio. Other factors that are likely to drive acquisitions are the need for geographic expansion. The regulatory framework is robust in North America, which has resulted in the emergence of a number of small PPE companies focused on niche areas. Additionally, there is expected to be further consolidation as the market continues to be very fragmented. In Europe, falling margins are expected to drive M&A activities. Companies are likely to spin off businesses that do not align with their overall growth strategy. Ansell's acquisition of Nitritex Limited was driven by the need to integrate a high-margin business into the product portfolio. Additionally, end-users awareness of safety requirements is increasing in a number of end-user industries such as construction, manufacturing, and oil & gas. For example, awareness of height-safety training has been increasing. This has prompted MSA's acquisition of Latchways Fall Protection. Other reasons that drive acquisitions include the need for strengthening presence in a number of end-user verticals. For example, Bunzl's acquisition of Tillman was prompted by the need to strengthen the business in welding gloves and leather protective garments. Going forward, there is unlikely to be any slowdown in committed acquisition spending, as market participants continue to expand product portfolios as well as their geographic presence. It is also important that certain regions such as south-western European countries and Iberia are expected to offer key growth opportunities. The overall compliance landscape is also expected to change. For example, rising employee awareness about liabilities is expected to boost compliance rates. This, in turn, is expected to boost demand for PPE. Manufacturers may acquire other companies to boost their product portfolios to meet surging demand. To sum up, acquisitions are likely to be driven by the following factors, namely (a) falling margins, (b) search for growth and yield, (c) deployment of unspent capital, (d) expanding range of products, and (e) access to specific markets.
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