Europe's underdeveloped venture industry, combined with its slowing economic activity overall, is turning the Continent into a bargain market for tech M&A. Over the past half-decade, Western European acquirers have consistently paid roughly one turn lower than their North American counterparts. The valuation discrepancy on the two sides of the Atlantic is even slightly more pronounced when it comes to VC-backed startups.

According to 451 Research's M&A KnowledgeBase, Western European buyers have paid a median valuation of 1.9x trailing sales in their tech deals across all sectors since the start of 2014. During that same time, our data shows North American acquirers paid 2.9x trailing sales overall. (To be clear, we are looking at buyers headquartered in the respective regions, regardless of the target's location. Just to give some sense of scale, over the past half-decade, acquirers in America and Canada have announced nearly three times as many tech transactions as their European cousins.)

In both regions, the broad market multiples have been led higher by the valuations for VC-funded companies. The M&A KnowledgeBase shows European buyers have paid a median of 4x trailing sales for venture-backed startups since 2014, while North American acquirers have been even more generous, paying 5.3x trailing sales.

That's a fairly substantial premium for any startup, and it's one that is paid far more often by North American buyers. In fully one of every five tech deals, a North American company picks up a VC-backed startup, which is almost twice the rate of European acquirers. With more plentiful funding, which can fuel faster growth rates, bigger paydays are being found on this side of the Atlantic. When it comes to tech M&A, risk capital can be rewarding.

Brenon Daly
Research Vice President

Brenon Daly oversees the financial analysis of 451 Research's Market Insight and KnowledgeBase products, having covered more than a quarter-trillion dollars' worth of deal flow for both national publications and research firms.

Sheryl Kingstone
Research Director

Sheryl Kingstone leads 451 Research’s coverage for Customer Experience & Commerce, which covers the many aspects of how customer experience is a catalyst for digital transformation. She oversees the company’s coverage of a variety of customer experience software markets spanning ad tech, marketing, sales, commerce and service.

Keith Dawson
Principal Analyst

Keith Dawson is a principal analyst in 451 Research's Customer Experience & Commerce practice, primarily covering marketing technology. Keith has been covering the intersection of communications and enterprise software for 25 years, mainly looking at how to influence and optimize the customer experience.

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