On August 20, 2021, LanguageWire announced that UK-based private equity firm Bridgepoint acquired a majority stake in the firm. The Copenhagen-based language service provider (LSP) was purchased through Bridgepoint Development Capital — the investment vehicle for the PE firm’s mid-market strategy — and fund BDC IV.
Bridgepoint is one of Europe’s leading private equity firms and manages EUR 27.4bn in assets across a range of private equity and debt funds, according to Reuters. The firm focuses on mid-market deals of up to EUR 1bn. In late-July 2021, Bridgepoint listed in London in an IPO that valued the company at nearly USD 4bn.
LanguageWire CEO, Søren Bech Justesen, told Slator that Bridgepoint had been closely observing the language market for some time and, ultimately, contacted the LSP earlier in the year through the now former majority shareholder CataCap.
“Bridgepoint is acquiring a majority shareholding in the company, while the senior leadership team will reinvest alongside Bridgepoint and retain a minority shareholding,” Justesen said.
LanguageWire’s senior leadership team comprises CEO Justesen; CFO Klaus Skovrup; COO Stig Jørgensen; Chief Product & Technology Officer, Roeland Hofkens; and Chief Commercial Officer, Mikkel Lundø.
According to Justesen, they signed the Share Purchase Agreement on August 15, 2021, “and we are now awaiting approvals from the competition authorities in certain countries before the deal can formally be complete.”
While all parties wish to keep the financial terms of the deal confidential, Justesen did share that LanguageWire expects 2021 revenues to exceed EUR 65 million (USD 76m), following a strong first half.
LanguageWire has a full-time staff count north of 400 based in 14 countries and working out of 15 locations.
A Market Primed for Tech-Enabled Players
Johan Dahlfors, Partner at Bridgepoint Development Capital, told Slator that “Bridgepoint will engage as an active majority shareholder, joining the board of directors and engaging in strategic value-adding initiatives.”
“Tech-enabled players of scale will be well-positioned to take an increasingly larger share of the overall market, while more traditional service providers will likely find it more challenging to compete” — Johan Dahlfors, Partner, Bridgepoint Development Capital
Asked for his take on the language services and tech market, Dahlfors noted how it displays “long-term structural growth trends, driven by globalization, digitalization, and technology advancements. In addition, the language services market is highly fragmented and predominantly addressed by more traditional service providers where we see a clear opportunity for consolidation.”
He added, “As these trends continue to play out, we believe that tech-enabled players of scale will be well-positioned to take an increasingly larger share of the overall market, while more traditional service providers will likely find it more challenging to compete.”
On what attracted Bridgepoint to LanguageWire, Dahlfors said it was “the combination of a strong proprietary technology platform, committed high-quality management team, talented staff across geographies, and a track record of value creation through M&A, combined with favorable future industry trends where we believe scale and technological capabilities will be increasingly important.”
Full Stack of Proprietary Tech
The Danish LSP is known for LanguageWire Platform, its integrated translation management system (TMS), through which all language services are run, “directly or indirectly as when run through our customers’ tech stack,” Justesen said.
The LanguageWire CEO further explained that their TMS is integrated with Smart Editor, their proprietary AI-driven translation productivity and validation tool, which uses machine translation engines customized according to customer requirements. “Our cutting-edge AI is developed entirely in-house, to the highest quality and highest security standards,” he said.
“We are always looking at other companies that can complement our technology, value chain, and geographic growth plans” — Søren Bech Justesen, CEO, LanguageWire
LanguageWire’s client portfolio spans the range of major industries, Justesen said, some customers having been with the LSP for over a decade. LanguageWire was founded in 2000 by Henrik Lottrup, who passed on operational leadership of the company to current CEO Justesen in 2020.
According to Justesen, they will continue to invest in “bringing the best AI-driven technology solutions and deep people competencies to the market. Geographically, our focus is to maintain our market-leading position in Europe, while further growing our presence in the US.”
On their future M&A plans, Justesen said that, as a PE-backed LSP, “we are always looking at other companies that can complement our technology, value chain, and geographic growth plans. With Bridgepoint’s international network and financial support, this will of course continue to be a focus area for us.”
Asked for his thoughts on TransPerfect’s acquisition of Semantix and its impact on the Nordic market, the LanguageWire CEO replied, “The LSP industry is highly fragmented and consolidation of market players is expected. As TransPerfect has been present in the Nordics for many years, we don’t expect any major changes to the competitive landscape.”
Advising LanguageWire on the deal were EY Corporate Finance, Gorrissen Federspiel (legal), and Deloitte (financial). Advising Bridgepoint on the acquisition were Accura (legal), Alantra (corporate finance), Alvarez & Marsal (financial, tax), Anthesis (ESG), Intechnica (technology), and, full disclosure, Slator (market).
Image: Composite of Søren Bech Justesen, CEO, LanguageWire and the LSP’s Denmark headquarters; photos courtesy of LanguageWire