'The ideal buyer was closer than we expected'
In the years to come, many German business owners will retire. This opens up opportunities for foreign businesses looking to expand into Germany, says M&A-advisor Dr. Willem Keijzer.
Across the border
In the SME-market, not many European business owners look across the borders of their own country when they want to buy or sell a company. They risk missing out on great opportunities, says M&A advisor Dr. Willem Keijzer, founder and managing partner of CNX Transaction Partners GmbH. Keijzer himself took the leap two decades ago, when he moved from the Netherlands to the Bavarian capital of Munich. The first ten years he advised numerous large and mid-size companies in Germany about strategy development, operational improvements in production, logistics, procurement and product development, as well as digitalisation. In his spare time, he managed to complete a PhD in mechanical engineering at the Munich University of Technology.
The importance of preparation
In 2010, after he successfully supported a client in the sale of his company, Keijzer founded CNX Transaction Partners. Since then, he devotes all his time and energy to M&A. For the past ten years, Keijzer and his three associates supported numerous entrepreneurs, business owners and investors in the selling or buying of companies. They focus on three sectors: Industry (automotive and logistics), ICT & Software, and Healthcare ‘light’ (no pharmaceutics). There is no regional focus, clients from CNX Transaction Partners come from all over Germany. ‘What I like most about my work is to assist business personalities during one of the most important episodes of their entrepreneurial life’, says Keijzer, who stresses the importance of a thorough preparation of transactions to make sure that the real value of a company is realised.
Keijzer was an early adopter of Dealsuite. Recently, he found a buyer for a German glass-processing company through Dealsuite. The owner of the firm from North Rhine-Westphalia, that specialises in different treatments of glass (annual revenue €12 million) wanted to retire and was looking for a suitable candidate to take over and continue his business. An M&A-advisor saw the profile on Dealsuite and brought it to the attention of one of his clients, who was immediately interested. It was an instant fit, says Keijzer: ‘It turned out that the buyer knew the company very well, but wasn’t aware that it was up for sale. He was the ideal management buy-in candidate.’
German-Dutch business forum
These days, Keijzer’s German business partners are surprised when they learn he is Dutch. They can’t tell by his accent. But Keijzer hasn’t forgotten his Dutch background. He sits on the board of the German-Dutch business forum in Bavaria (Deutsch-Niederländisches Geschäftsforum) and feels that his knowledge of the Dutch market gives him an edge over German competitors. Cross-border M&A-transactions between the Netherlands and DACH have been growing steadily for at least a decade. However, a lot of Dutch businesses are still unfamiliar with the DACH market, or are anxious to explore M&A opportunities across the border. It is here that Keijzer believes he can make a difference: ‘I’ve spent the past decade working with German businesses and getting to know the German M&A environment. I’ve conducted several cross-border deals with businesses from outside of Germany, as far afield as India, but for some reason never with a Dutch company. It is about time that changes. I want to use my experience to guide Dutch entrepreneurs who want to pursue transactions in the DACH-region.’
The potential of the German M&A (middle)market is enormous, says Keijzer. ‘As in many other countries, hundreds of German business owners will want to retire in the coming years. It means that a lot of strong medium-sized companies will come to the market.’ Keijzer believes that Dealsuite has brought more transparency to European M&A. He expects this will drive cross-border M&A. It will not be for lack of effort from him.