At Blacktrace we are watching unfolding events concerning the COVID-19 virus closely and following the advice of health authorities in the Netherlands. Our primary aims are two-fold: firstly, to ensure the health and wellbeing of our staff and others, and secondly to continue to serve our clients well during these unprecedented times.
Our thoughts are with everyone who is affected by the spread of the virus, and we know that with schools closing and travel severely restricted many people are juggling home and work responsibilities. Please be reassured that though our working patterns have changed, we are continuing to focus on clients and in all material respects are functioning relatively normally.
As an established international M&A specialist, our firm has well-tested contingency plans which we have put into action. Given the most up to date the Netherlands government advice, virtually all of our staff are now working from home and we have stopped receiving visitors to our ‘s-Hertogenbosch office. The firm has technology, systems and policies in place to ensure that we remain fully functional while working in dispersed locations, and should this situation persist for an extended period we are fully capable of continuing business as usual. Clients’ interests are being managed as normal by our M&A team and our client service and other staff are available via email and telephone, as well as on networks such as Microsoft Teams.
We continue to support international M&A transactions (company sale, company acquisition, equity & debt capital raising, company valuation) to facilitate client strategic decisions.
International business travel has stopped for the time being and we are looking to hold external meetings by video and conference call wherever possible. Most overseas offices within World M&A Alliance (www.world-ma.com) in Europe, the Americas and Asia have also closed and staff are working from home.
It is important during times of extreme market volatility, uncertainty about the future and abrupt reactions of putting transaction processes on-hold, to remember that M&A is a long-term activity. History indicates that acting hastily in the midst of a crisis is typically unhelpful, and we would encourage all sellers, buyers and capital providers (equity and debt) to step back and maintain perspective. When we realize transactions on behalf of clients, it is with a long-term view of the opportunities for the seller, the buyer and the company. Clearly, many such companies will be impacted in the near term by the abrupt economic slowdown which is unfolding, and stock markets have factored this heavily into prices of listed companies, that are in general interesting potential strategic buyers. However, our view is that such selling by stock investors has been relatively indiscriminate and driven by fear or speculation rather than long-term fundamentals. Companies with growing opportunities, competitive advantages and strong balance sheets are not only well placed to survive short-term pressures, but should resume their positive trends when the current crisis is over.
We will therefore continue working on our sell-side, buy-side, equity & debt capital raising, and valuation assignments with the same enthusiasm and professional approach as our clients are used to and expect from us. There will be discussion with regard to valuation of companies, but valuation is not a snapshot and rather the resultant of long-term perspectives, like M&A is a long-term activity.
In recent years there has been a growing focus amongst sellers, buyers (strategic as well as private equity investors) and the public on the benefits of companies acting responsibly towards all stakeholders, including employees, suppliers and customers as well as shareholders. We will learn much about their commitment to such concepts in coming weeks. At Blacktrace, we have always held that in high regard. Blacktrace itself has no short-term pressures. We have no outside shareholders, and the partners in our firm are committed to seeing through the current challenges without making any material changes to our own firm. We will continue to put staff and client interests foremost, even as we adapt to our new, temporary, reality.
If you have any specific concerns or challenges, please get in touch with your usual contacts here at Blacktrace.
Your Blacktrace team.