Uk distressed m&a buyer's guide

A Buyer’s Guide to Distressed M&A in the UK

Are you ready to find great deals in the distress of some businesses? The UK’s market for buying troubled companies offers unique chances and challenges. This is especially true for those who know how to spot a great deal when they see it.

These chances haven’t shown up like they used to since 2020 with the coronavirus keeping things uncertain. But with UK businesses facing supply chain issues and more, the chance to buy for less is growing. Our guide has the know-how and tips you need to do this wisely.

Our guide is here to help you learn from the pros. You’ll find advice on spotting deals, checking things out, and making the right move. Especially now, with some industries facing big troubles, careful thinking and good advice are key.

It’s important for company bosses to be careful during tough times like these. They need to keep their focus right, or they might face serious problems. In some cases, selling off a company might be the best move to avoid bigger troubles.

Buyers, on the other hand, need to be smart about their moves. Being ready, dealing with risk, and making sellers happy are key. This guide will show you more. It will help you find ways to win at buying these struggling businesses.

Understanding Distressed M&A Transactions

In the UK, distressed M&A transactions happen when companies or their assets are in trouble. This can be due to financial or operational problems. Buyers see a chance to quickly enter the market by buying these low-cost assets.

Buying assets directly can help buyers avoid risks hidden in the purchase. This way, they can steer clear of trouble and still get the benefits.

When a company is struggling, asset sales are common. Buyers get to choose the best assets. They can also dodge any bad debts and problems of the seller.

But there’s a catch. If not careful, buyers might have to pay extra VAT. Share deals can help dodge some issues. Yet, they come with a stamp duty cost.

Another tactic is to turn what a company owes into ownership. This might open more doors to lending. But it involves more complicated deals.

In some cases, a company might sell part of itself quickly before things get worse. This is called a pre-pack arrangement. It can be a fast and direct way of changing hands legally, if done right.

The law has recently been updated to help fix failing businesses better. This means buyers must look into the companies very carefully. They need to know what they’re getting into and how to make it work after the purchase.

There are many risks to think about in deals like these. From pension problems to who owes taxes, the list is long. Making sure everyone agrees is a big step buyers have to take from the start.

Getting the right advice early on is key. This makes the buying process smoother and less risky, especially with quick sales.

Tax and legal rules are critical in these deals. They can change how much you pay. Knowing them well can save a lot of trouble.

Buying troubled companies or their parts can be a smart move. Certain sectors are really struggling, and there are chances to pick up what’s valuable. But, this needs careful thought.

Directors have a new focus: looking out for others’ money more than before. This shift makes being legally correct more important. Keeping good records and acting by the law are top priorities.

Common Transaction Structures in Distressed Sales

In the UK, there’s been a rise in distressed M&A deals. This is mainly due to easy access to debt finance and many new opportunities after the pandemic. Knowing about the main transaction types is crucial for those interested in buying troubled companies.

One common method in these deals is asset purchases. This allows buyers to pick and choose the assets they want. They can also often avoid taking on the company’s debts. Clean slate.

Share sales are also popular, especially before insolvency. They make transferring contracts easier. But, buyers take on all the company’s debts with this option.

A hive-down is another way to go. This method moves the assets into a new company to sell. It helps protect the new buyer from the old company’s obligations. Less risk for the buyer.

Buyers need to know UK laws like the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations. These are key as they protect workers’ rights. Knowing these laws well can change how a deal is made.

Distressed sales are tricky, so buyers need to do their homework. Getting help from experts in law and finance is smart. Now, there might be fewer big companies buying, and more investors looking for good deals.

Legal Framework and Regulatory Requirements

The UK’s legal rules on distressed M&A can be complex. They have many regulations to keep things fair and honest. The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 is at the heart. It introduced the ‘restructuring cross-class cram-down mechanism’. This needs at least 75% of those who are owed money, or the shareholders, to agree. This ensures most people involved in a company agree on its future plans.

Following the UK’s rules closely is vital when dealing with distressed M&A. It’s important to get approvals from others like lenders and partners in big deals. If these approvals are missed, the deal might not be legal.

UK’s rules also focus on potential problems with pension schemes. If a company leaves a pension scheme and owes money, the new owners might have to pay. The Pensions Regulator can tell new owners to pay up. It’s crucial to know about these costs before buying a company.

Dealing with tax like stamp duty is a big part of buying in the UK. Normally, a 0.5% stamp duty is paid on shares and some debts. There’s also VAT on sales of company assets, unless it’s a VAT-free ‘transfer of business’. Each UK country has its own tax on buying land, which is crucial for buying real estate.

Starting talks with experts early can make the buying process faster. This is especially true for pre-pack administrations. Not getting into these details can lead to problems. It may even make the deal fall apart. So, it’s vital not to overlook the legal side of M&A deals.

Due Diligence in Distressed M&A

Doing your homework in distressed M&A deals is vital. Buyers need a special way to spot and understand big risks. Checking the value of assets and looking at legal problems are key. This special method gives a full view of the target’s situation. It helps avoid surprise problems after the deal is done.

Buyer due diligence

Looking into VAT implications on asset sales is a big deal. These deals might not have VAT if seen as a ‘business transfer’. But, watch out for stamp duty on UK property. Also, there’s a 0.5% stamp duty on selling shares that buyers pay.

It’s important to check for any lawsuits, contracts, or staff debts. These might move to the buyer, affecting the deal. Understanding these laws can lower the risks linked with staff changes.

Checking the target’s debts closely is a must. Buying debt with plans to turn it into equity might be wise. But, be careful of a new law that changed how these debts are managed. This law brought in new ways to handle debt from 2020 onwards.

Looking at the target’s finances is also very important. Check for tax debts and other unpaid bills. Even though US distressed deals dropped in 2018’s first half, they picked up in the third quarter. This shows a slow-down in business takeovers.

So, being very through in your checks is key to keeping the asset’s value high. By looking deep into every detail from money to laws, buyers can make good choices. They can handle the challenges of buying in a weak market well.

Valuation and Pricing Mechanisms

Valuation and pricing in distressed M&A take a careful approach. This is because target companies are in a tough spot. With many challenges like supply chain issues and labour shortages, their worth can change quickly.

When buying a company in trouble, the key is to figure out its real value. This means looking closely at what assets are worth now and what they might be worth later. It also means considering the market and how urgently the seller needs to sell.

Setting the right price is also about knowing how to check the business you’re buying. It involves looking at the main parts of the company and understanding the risks. Often, sellers don’t have all the details ready, which means buyers need to move quickly but carefully.

For sellers, moving fast and being sure of the deal is important to avoid going bankrupt. Buyers should be ready to close the deal quickly and without many conditions. Choosing the right way to buy the business, like buying its assets, can also be a win for the seller.

To succeed in these deals in the UK, you need to really know the business’s value and the market. You also need a smart strategy. This work can lead to a successful buyout despite the challenges.

Mitigating Risks in Distressed Acquisitions

Buying a distressed company comes with a lot of risks. The value of assets might be unsure, and there could be hidden debts. It’s key to have good strategies to make the purchase successful. Getting insurance for false statements can protect the buyer against lies from the seller.

Buyers can also secure themselves by negotiating strong promises to cover against later claims. Despite quick looks into the business (due diligence), detailed checks are crucial. This includes going through the company’s finances, legal issues, and how well it’s running. The goal is to avoid major problems like lacking pension funds, tax debts, or big secret debts.

Most of the risk in buying a struggling company falls on the buyer. It’s important for the buyer to fully understand the company’s debts. They should also know the rules set by organisations like the UK Competition and Markets Authority, among others. Knowing these rules is vital to avoid legal problems.

Acting quickly and decisively is also very important. The buyer should sort out their finances in advance. The seller might not agree to deals with conditions or delayed payments. With the right plans, these transactions can be made less risky. This can turn distressed acquisitions into safer investments.

Financing Distressed Acquisitions

Financing distressed acquisitions is vital but tricky, often needing clever plans to get the needed money. A top choice is a normal loan. In this way, buyers show their own financial health to get cash. Yet, in unique cases like distressed M&A, using complex methods may be smarter. These could include special loan setups or getting money from private investors.

One smart way is to use a ‘loan-to-own’ idea. This means buying up debt that’s tied to a distressed asset with the aim to own it later. It can give the buyer more power over the troubled asset while possibly costing less. Books like “The Art of M&A, Fifth Edition: A Merger, Acquisition, and Buyout Guide” share these methods, and they’re well-regarded.

Getting help from private equity is another good tactic. Here, investors put in money to own a bit of the bought company. It works well for companies that can do better but need more cash to turn around. Any funding plan must make sure the troubled company can actually thrive using the proposed strategy.

Using pre-pack administrations is a quick way to improve your chances in a distressed acquisition. It speeds up the process. By working closely with administrators and advisors early on, buyers can make things move more swiftly.

Role of Third Parties and Consents Required

In the UK acquisition guide, knowing the part of third parties is key. This is especially true in challenging M&A deals. It’s important to get the nod from important people like lenders and regulators. This makes sure the deal doesn’t mess up past agreements or make things worse.

Finding and getting the green light from these third parties is detailed work. Places like the UK Competition and Markets Authority must be checked first. This avoids trouble with the law. For public deals, shareholders usually have a say too.

Uk acquisition guide

Getting in touch with everyone involved early on is smart. This includes clear talking and negotiating with third parties. This not only helps get their okay but also builds trust, which is crucial when dealing with big deals.

The UK acquisition guide highlights the need to work closely with certain experts. These are the insolvency professionals, like administrators and liquidators. They help keep everybody happy, make sure the deal is legal, and runs smoothly. Early talks with them can really make a difference in how fast and well the deal goes through.

Tax Considerations in Distressed M&A

Tax matters are key in buying troubled assets in the UK. Knowing the tax scene lets buyers check their costs. Still, some deals might let buyers avoid certain taxes. For example, buying assets comes with less tax risk than taking on a whole business. Buying in the UK may mean paying VAT, but smart deals can avoid this. And, buying real estate here can bring extra taxes.

Selling shares before a business goes bust removes some tax hurdles. It can make the deal smoother. But if a buyer takes on the business’s debts, they also get its tax bills. So, knowing the tax situation well is very important for buyers. This helps them avoid unexpected taxes, like overdue insurance bills. They should work closely with tax experts to plan the deal smartly.

Using pre-pack deals can make things move faster and help pay back debts. But selling a business with pension plans might be tricky. This could add a big, ongoing cost to the deal. Directors must watch out for everyone’s interest. They must not only think about the sale price but also about the company’s future. Being careful about taxes leads to a smoother deal. It’s crucial for buying right in the troubled asset market.

Time Frames and Expediency

Time frames for distressed M&A deals can be very different. The UK has seen more pre-pack administrations lately, going from 345 in 2016 to 473 in 2019. By 2022, after the COVID-19 impact, about 29% of all administrations in England and Wales were pre-packs. These deals allow a company in trouble to sell quickly to avoid closing down.

Quick deals are key in selling distressed businesses to save their value and keep everyone confident. It’s vital for buyers to move fast, as opportunities might disappear soon. Some buyers use loan-to-own plans. They buy the business’s debt and change it into ownership. This needs to happen fast to get the most benefit and control.

On the other hand, some kinds of deals, like out-of-court restructurings, can take longer. These deals require talking to many different people and getting various approvals. They can take more time than pre-pack administrations but offer some flexibility.

When buying a distressed business, being flexible and ready for changes is important. This helps in seizing chances and avoiding problems. Doing so fits with the main aim of a successful purchase in a good time. It also ensures things move quickly when needed. This is crucial in the ever-changing world of distressed sales.

UK Distressed M&A Buyer’s Guide: Strategies and Best Practices

The world of mergers and acquisitions is always changing. Knowing how to look for deals is more important than ever. Despite tough times, there are lots of chances to make smart buys in the UK.

First off, it’s key to spot the right chances. Look at sectors like retail, manufacturing, transport, and health. These areas could see more struggles soon. As government help fades, these chances might grow.

With more deals on the horizon, buyers need to be sharp. People with lots of money might jump in where big companies used to be. Getting ready for a tough fight is wise. Be ready to bid hard in auctions, not just talk with the seller alone.

When talking deals, speed is of the essence and checks may not be as thorough. Getting things right before buying is crucial. Make sure you’re safe by checking everything thoroughly, and don’t forget to get things in writing to protect your interests.

Understanding the law is also vital. Acts like the NSI Act 2021 and the Insolvency Act 1986 guide how deals are okayed. Stepping carefully to follow these rules helps avoid big mistakes.

After buying, blending the new with the old smoothly is key. A good plan to merge everything can make your buy more successful. Start planning how things will join early. This makes the switch easier and your business better.

To wrap it up, smart buyer tactics and solid planning can turn troubled deals into wins in the UK.


The UK Distressed M&A Buyer’s Guide is packed with vital info for those looking to invest. UK businesses face troubles like supply chain issues and a shortage of workers. But, these challenges also make for great chances in the distressed M&A world. Sectors that deal with consumers, such as retail and hospitality, might be struggling but offer big chances for smart investors.

When investing in such troubled times, careful planning and following laws are a must. It’s key to keep up competition to get the best deal in distressed sales. Buyers must be alert during quick checks on the business they wish to buy. Having the money ready is very important for sellers, who are also looking at new ways to sell their business.

The business buying and selling scene in the UK is steady, with more distress sales expected as help from the government slows down. Companies that need a change might attract buyers who can fix things up. Investment groups are also on the lookout for chances to use their funds. This means there are lots of chances to invest, especially in areas like retail, manufacturing, and finance. Knowing how to handle quick checks and fast deals is essential for making a buy successful. This guide helps buyers understand and tackle the UK distressed M&A market with confidence.

Written by
Scott Dylan
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Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan is the Co-founder of Inc & Co, a seasoned entrepreneur, investor, and business strategist renowned for his adeptness in turning around struggling companies and driving sustainable growth.

As the Co-Founder of Inc & Co, Scott has been instrumental in the acquisition and revitalization of various businesses across multiple industries, from digital marketing to logistics and retail. With a robust background that includes a mix of creative pursuits and legal studies, Scott brings a unique blend of creativity and strategic rigor to his ventures. Beyond his professional endeavors, he is deeply committed to philanthropy, with a special focus on mental health initiatives and community welfare.

Scott's insights and experiences inform his writings, which aim to inspire and guide other entrepreneurs and business leaders. His blog serves as a platform for sharing his expert strategies, lessons learned, and the latest trends affecting the business world.


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