QuEST Global may spend $200 mn in making large acquisition, plans expansion

After a series of tuck-in acquisitions in the digital space, engineering services company QuEST Global is looking at making a large acquisition as it pushes to achieve a revenue target of $1 billion by FY21. 

The company, which is backed by global private equity majors such as Bain Capital, GIC and Advent International, said the acquisition size could be as big as $200 million and give it a strong foothold in client geography apart from helping expand its portfolio of services, especially in the digital space. 

“With the backing of the kind of investors we have, we could be easily looking at $200 million kind of firm. We have a lot of experience, which gives us the confidence,” said Ajay Prabhu, chief operation officer at QuEST Global. 

He, however, said the company would not just do an acquisition for revenue aggregation but for a host of factors such as capabilities and the clients.

The company, which counts companies such as Prattt & Whitney, Airbus and GE as its key customers, has made 13 acquisitions, including one in the ongoing fiscal year. The only large acquisition that QuEST has done so far is NeST Software, a Kerala-based engineering services company, in 2014 (QuEST acquired a 84 per cent stake in NeST for Rs 5 billion or $81.4 million).


QuEST, incepted as a Bengaluru-based company before shifting the headquarters to Singapore, has set a target of achieving $1 billion in revenues by FY21 as a part of its 2020 plan. The company is learnt to have reached the halfway mark. Part of the 2020 strategy is also to diversify into digital areas to offer a broad spectrum of services to its industrial customers.

“By 2020, our aspiration and target is still that (achieving the revenue milestone) and we are putting all our plans to get close to the number as early as possible. It will, of course, need inorganic of a sizable company,” said Prabhu.

Within digital, QuEST is looking at segments such as big data and analytics, and machine learning, he said.

In 2016, global private equity majors such as Bain Capital, GIC and Advent International bought out QuEST Global's long-time investor Warburg Pincus and a few others, to invest around $350 million (about ~23.9 billion) for a minority stake. The company was valued at a little over $1 billion. The promoters, including Chief Executive Officer Ajit Prabhu, still holds a majority stake in the company. “We have a decent profitability and we are not too leveraged while the investors are highly supportive,” Prabhu said.

QuEST Global is also looking at strengthening its presence in France, one of its key markets in Europe where it caters to around 10 large clients. Another factor forcing the company to establish a strong local presence in France is most of its competitions are local French companies who are quite large in scale.  "One of our main strategies has been to make ourselves available closer to the customers, and in that sense France is strategically an important region for us,” said Prabhu. 

“We are trying to grow organically in this geography but we think now is the right time to look at an acquisition in the country to fill the geographic footprint.”

Globally, QuEST employs around 10,000 employees, almost 40 per cent of whom are non-Indians. Within Europe, the company has a sizable workforce in Germany, Spain and England. In terms of geography, both Europe and North America account for 40 per cent the company's revenue each while the rest are distributed across other regions.

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