Sales of Irish tech companies are biggest European deals to date

New data shows deals for Decawave and Pointy represent largest exits in first quarter

The sale of two Irish technology companies represented the biggest exits across Europe during the first quarter, new data shows.

Overall, European exits totalled a combined €727.1 million in the first three months, missing the €1 billion mark for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2012.

Irish companies accounted for €517 million of the European exit total achieved in the first quarter, according to figures compiled by Pitchbook.

The $400 million (€369 million) acquisition of Irish chipmaker Decawave by Apple supplier Qorvo in late January is the largest European exit of the year so far.

Founded in 2007 by Ciarán Connell and Michael McLaughlin, Decawave provides ultra-wideband wireless technology through a low-power chip that can be used in solutions for mobile, automotive and IoT applications.

The deal resulted in a €54 million payout for staff and founders with shareholders such as Atlantic Bridge and Act Venture Capital also seeing good returns.

The second-largest exit of the year to date was Google's $160 million acquisition of Pointy, which also took place in January.

The sale of retail tech company founded by Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby, resulted in an $80 million-plus payday for the entrepreneurs.

Pointy's backers included Noel Ruane's Polaris, Frontline Ventures and former Irish rugby international Jamie Heaslip.

Given a likely sharp decline in VC activity due to Covid-19, the Decawave and Pointy deals may end up being the biggest exits this year.

The Pitchbook figures show that only four European companies exited via an initial public offering (IPO) in the first quarter, with the coronavirus pandemic expected to lead to a postponement of any other listings this year.

According to the figures, VC deal activity started the new decade well with the fourth-strongest quarter in terms of deal values since Pitchbook started recording the data. Combined deal value of €8.2 billion was recorded across Europe with deals involving corporate VC totalling €3.4 billion.

Fundraising also started strongly but is expected to be substantially lower for the rest of 2020 given the impact of Covid-19.

Pitchbook figures show healthcare start-ups raised €1.7 billion in the first quarter. While deal activity is expected to slow, the research company said healthcare will be less affected than most other sectors.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist