M&A market to ‘regain certainty’ after remarkably strong €9.1bn in deals last year

M&A market to 'regain certainty' after remarkably strong €9.1bn in deals last year

Stephen Keogh

The period of “extreme uncertainty” in the Irish M&A market is drawing to a close, William Fry has said following a report showing the total value of Irish deals increased by 14 per cent to €9.1 billion last year in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The law firm today published its M&A Review 2020 in association with Mergermarket, which notes that the final quarter of 2020 registered €5.3 billion in activity, more than the previous three quarters combined.

Total inbound volume reached a new record of 121 deals worth €8.8 billion, a six per cent rise in volume and 16 per cent rise in value on the previous year, mostly from UK and US buyers - making up 47 and 38 deals respectively.

Private equity activity jumped significantly by value and volume with 56 deals worth €5.2 billion, 47 per cent more in volume than 2019 and 105 per cent higher in value. Of the top 20 deals of the year, 13 had private equity involvement.

There were 11 deals worth €250 million or more last year, worth a combined value of €6.3 billion, compared to only four such deals in 2019 and 2018. Most of these deals, including the top five deals, were announced in the second half of the year.

A total of 60 mid-market deals (between €5 million and €250 million in value) were announced last year, a drop of nine per cent in volume compared to the previous year but still accounting for 85 per cent of total deals with a disclosed deal value.

The technology, media and telecoms (TMT) sector accounted for a quarter of total volume and more than a fifth (22 per cent) of value across several key sectors, as well as attracting three of the top ten deals of the year. The health and life sciences sector was also busy, with a total of €1.3 billion worth of deals.

Stephen Keogh, head of corporate/M&A at William Fry, said: “Despite the volatile economic climate in 2020, the Irish M&A market’s performance was very strong, matching 2019 deal activity by volume and exceeding it by value by 14 per cent.

“These figures are even more impressive when you compare them internationally. In contrast to Ireland, overall European deal volume fell 17 per cent over the same period, and value ticked up by a modest three per cent to €739.4bn.”

Andrew McIntyre, head of inward investment at William Fry, said: “As an economy largely reliant on overseas investment, Ireland has been particularly vulnerable to the economic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“However, Ireland’s TMT and business services sectors continue to attract international attention and last month IDA Ireland reported continued investment in 2020 with 246 new investments and a net increase of almost 9,000 jobs.”

Mr Keogh added: “As dealmakers plan for 2021, there are signs that the era of extreme uncertainty is drawing to a much needed close. Several positive indicators are behind this renewed sense of optimism: the commencement of vaccine rollouts was a crucial achievement in the long battle against the virus, and Joe Biden’s US electoral victory is expected to bring greater stability to global markets.

“Moreover, the long-awaited agreement on the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU (limited though they are) is sure to bring a renewed sense of certainty. All in all, it seems like there are solid grounds for optimism as we survey the Irish M&A market in 2021.

“Despite certain challenges on the horizon, there is every reason to believe that 2021 will be a year of regained certainty, particularly in the second half of the year. The gradual global economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, coupled with greater geopolitical stability in the form of the UK-EU trade deal, will provide the backdrop for a more confident Irish M&A market in 2021.”

Share icon
Share this article: