While 2020 presented a completely atypical profile, Lazard Paris’ advisory activity was strong and allowed it to end the year on higher momentum than in 2019. The bank’s diversified business model enabled it to be active throughout the year: when some sectors were significantly slowed down at the time of the first lockdown, its counter-cyclical corporate debt advisory and sovereign debt advisory businesses took over and operated at full capacity. Then, after the spring deconfinement, M&A and private equity activities came back in force.
This dynamic can be explained by the fact that as soon as the lockdown ended, the bank’s clients – with the exception of those linked to the movement of people, and therefore, still highly exposed to the crisis – took note of the ultimately moderate impact of the crisis on their balance sheets, thanks to their ability to adapt and to the public support put in place, and they were able to observe that a relatively dynamic recovery was taking place. These companies or investors then decided to open or reopen M&A deals that were already in the making or underway before the health crisis, supported by the abundance of liquidity, both in equity and debt. In addition, the acceleration of changes in business models, brought about by the pandemic and its consequences, required companies to seize the opportunities at hand. Thus, the sectors not impacted by the pandemic were very active – Telecoms, Health, Chemicals, Education, Renewable Energy, etc. – with for example, the take-private of Altice, which represents an LBO of unprecedented size, the acquisition of Play Communications by Iliad, the sale of Engie’s stake in Suez, the acquisition of Iberchem by Croda, that of the oncology business of Agios Pharmaceuticals by Servier, the disposals of Colisée in the health sector and that of AD Education … all operations supported by Lazard, such as the LBO of Ceva Santé animale since before the crisis. At the same time, companies that wanted to accelerate their strategic development in the wake of the crisis, put their trust in Lazard, like Accor for its operations in Eastern Europe (Orbis,) or in the “lifestyle” sector (sbe and Ennismore). We note that the French groups have shown particularly successful in this context.
At the same time, Lazard has advised on a large number of corporate debt refinancing or restructuring cases such as Bourbon, Corsair, Europcar … and experienced an exceptional level of activity in its Sovereign Advisory Group (Greece, Argentina, Ecuador, Zambia, Suriname, Lebanon…).
All in all, in 2020, Lazard reinforced its leadership in M&A activities and ranked third in the Rankings (Refinitiv as of 12/31/2020). As the leading independent bank in France, Lazard is number one in restructuring activities for announced deals (Refinitiv as of 12/31/2020) and enjoys an undisputed leadership position as financial advisor to Governments.