Visma snaps up Silverfin in €300m dealby
Norwegian cloud software giant Visma has announced the acquisition of post-accounting platform Silverfin, with UK growth high on the Nordic tech vendor’s agenda.
The deal strengthens Visma’s position as one of Europe’s leading cloud accounting software providers, increases its presence in Silverfin’s native Belgian market and also gives it a toehold in the UK.
According to the Belgian business site De Tijd, the €300m acquisition is one of the largest tech deals in the country’s history and is Visma’s seventh Belgian takeover in the past three years.
Founded in Belgium in 2013 by accountant Joris Van Der Gucht and software architect Tim Vandecasteele, Silverfin targets the use of cloud computing to streamline inefficient work processes in the accounting profession.
Winner of the 2019 Accounting Excellence Award for software innovation, Silverfin concentrates on a select number of key post-bookkeeping functions performed by accountants, including digital work papers, accounts production and management reporting.
Data is imported from the accounting firm’s chosen bookkeeping tools or spreadsheets and mapped into Silverfin’s own standardised chart of accounts. When accountants prepare working papers, this data is then sluiced into year-end accounts and tax computations. If the source bookkeeping or work paper data changes, this will be carried through automatically into Silverfin’s accounts production and corporation tax templates.
Over the past four years, Silverfin has grown its revenues by more than two and half times and expanded to 15 countries – including the UK where it launched in 2019 and recently rolled out new products that include a corporation tax tool and an AI assistant.
Who is Visma?
Founded in Norway and operating across the entire Nordic region along with Benelux, Central and Eastern Europe, Visma bills itself as Europe’s leading cloud accounting and payroll provider for small businesses with more than 1.6 million customers.
Despite this, the company had a relatively small footprint in the UK accounting market, with its presence limited to the ownership of automated SME accounting tool Bokio – until now.
An experienced acquirer, the Norweigan number crunchers have more than 170 tech firm acquisitions under their belt, contributing to a total turnover of more than $2.2bn in last year’s accounts.
One area where the company bucks the tech trend is how it treats its acquisitions, which are generally not integrated into the wider brand. Companies brought under Visma's umbrella usually retain their brand identities and management and are given a fair amount of autonomy. Acquirees are often assigned to a ‘cluster’ of businesses operating in similar sectors or geographies, where they can share knowledge and best practice.
Strong potential in the UK market
Speaking to AccountingWEB after the deal was announced, Silverfin CEO Lisa Miles-Heal was upbeat about the company’s future prospects under the Visma banner.
“Visma goes after good businesses,” she said. “They know what they’re looking for, they acquire businesses and let them run independently with support and resources. If we can lean on the expertise of their network to see how they’ve solved problems in markets that are a similar shape and style, that’s got to be a positive thing.”
“It’s early days, but the UK perspective is an interesting aspect of the deal,” added Cameron Ford, Silverfin’s UK general manager. “Strong potential for the UK market came up as one of the reasons it made sense for Visma, along with our solid core basis in Belgium.”
“There’s no change to the product roadmap,” added Miles-Heal, who moved into the CEO role last year after the founders stepped back from day-to-day management of the company. “We’ve made great strides in the UK and the strategy is to keep focus on what we’re doing.”
Hg ups its stake in Silverfin
The move also marks another milestone for private equity group and accounting industry enthusiasts Hg as the investor increases its stake in Silverfin. According to the governance section on Visma’s investor page, Hg owns 54.8% of the company and has three representatives on the company’s board of directors.
HgCapital Trust, the investment house’s London-listed investment vehicle, previously owned a minority stake in Silverfin. In a statement to the stock market, HgCapital Trust said the deal valued its investment in Silverfin at £18.8m, compared to its carrying value as of 31 August of £15.7m.
The Hg accountancy portfolio also includes the expanding Azets practice empire, as well as stakes in IRIS, Bright, Access Group, CaseWare, Dext and Sovos.