20/07/2024
Uk acquisition trends and insights
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Exploring the Latest Acquisition Trends and Insights in the UK

What does it mean for the future of British industry if acquisition trends are shifting and deal values plummeting?

The landscape of UK deal trends has experienced a seismic shift, with a marked downturn in acquisition activity. In 2023, deal volumes plummeted by 18% from the previous year. And by almost a third compared to 2021, reflecting a broader global contraction.

Total deal value plunged dramatically to £83bn in 2023. This is a steep decline from £269bn in 2021 and £149bn in 2022. Despite these sobering figures, the health sector showed resilience, with an increase in deals year-on-year.

Notably, private equity deals have remained a significant component of UK acquisitions. They contributed to 42% of all transactions by volume and 55% by value in 2023. This strong presence underscores private equity’s role in British acquisition analysis.

The technology, media, and telecom sector has seen increased deal volumes. This is driven by an urgent need for companies to enhance their tech capabilities. Meanwhile, the energy transition has spurred deal activity in the energy sectors.

Amid these turbulent market insights, there is a note of optimism for the coming year. Factors such as stabilising interest rates and reducing inflation lend a positive outlook for sellers and investors. Corporates are under increasing pressure to transform.

Strategic acquisitions, such as ASDA’s acquisition of EG Group UK, stand out. They reach new customers and swiftly transform operations. As the economic landscape continues to evolve, private equity impatience is evident.

Driven by a build-up of dry powder and increased pressure from limited partners. While challenges remain, a well-prepared and strategically planned approach is crucial for success in the year ahead.

The Current State of Acquisition Activity in the UK

The UK’s acquisition activity has slowed down noticeably in 2023, reflecting worldwide economic hurdles. Deals within the UK in 2023 fell by 18% from 2022 and were almost a third lower than in 2021. This demonstrates the widespread slowdown affecting many sectors. However, the health sector has seen an increase in deals in 2023 compared to 2022.

Total deal value in the UK has significantly dropped, reaching £83bn in 2023. This is down from £269bn in 2021 and £149bn in 2022. Such a sharp decrease highlights economic difficulties and cautiousness among investors. Yet, private equity has kept up its activity, marking 42% of all deals by volume and 55% by value. Sectors such as technology, media, telecom (TMT), energy, pharma, and healthcare have drawn considerable private equity interest, showing a targeted strategy despite the general slowdown.

Securing financing is expected to get tougher and costlier after 2023. Private credit is likely to become more crucial. 56% of senior executives see transactions as key to keeping up with market trends. Also, 21% of CEOs think their companies will not survive another ten years without significant changes.

IM&A deals clearly show the decrease in acquisition activity, with the number of deals falling from 1,205 in 2021 to 899 in 2023. Deal values also witnessed a steep fall from £46.9bn in 2021 to £10.3bn in 2023. However, there’s been strong activity in TMT, energy, and health sectors despite the overall decline.

Impact of Macroeconomic Factors on UK Acquisitions

In recent years, the UK’s macroeconomic climate greatly influenced acquisitions. In 2023, there was an 18% drop in UK deal volume compared to 2022. It was nearly a third less than in 2021. Rising interest rates and inflation greatly contributed to this sharp decrease. The total deal value also fell to £83bn in 2023 from £269bn in 2021 and £149bn in 2022. This shows a big drop in financial activity.

Private Equity (PE) played a major role, making up 42% of all deals by volume and 55% by value in 2023. PE firms focused on key sectors like technology, media, telecom (TMT), energy, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare. Yet, getting financing remained hard and costly, with private credit growing in deal structures.

High borrowing costs and low consumer spending made acquisitions tougher in this difficult economic situation. Companies must adapt digitally amidst geopolitical tensions and election uncertainties that affect global supply chains. But, as interest rates stabilise and inflation falls, there might be a boost in acquisitions.

To deal with these impacts, sellers are now flexible in their deal-making. They’re using earn-outs and deferred considerations. The UK market has shifted to favor buyers, allowing for more creative deals and possibly lower prices. Navigating this complex economy requires careful planning and a focus on creating value.

Sector-Specific Trends in UK Acquisitions

In 2023, UK sector deals showed a lot of changes across industries. The health sector stood out by being the only one with more deals than last year. This growth is impressive, especially when overall deal numbers fell by 18% from 2022 and almost by a third since 2021.

Uk sector deals

The technology sector kept up its strong performance, thanks to the high demand for new tech like cloud computing and AI. The media and telecom industries also adapted well, moving smoothly towards more digital operations.

Efforts to change energy use have boosted deals in the energy, utilities, and resources fields. This change is part of moving towards sustainability and innovation. Yet, the total value of deals dropped to £83bn in 2023, much less than £269bn in 2021 and £149bn in 2022. Still, private equity plays a big role, with 42% of deals by number and 55% by value.

Consumer market sectors saw less activity this year. More than half of senior execs (56%) think deals are key for competitiveness. But, the tough and pricey financing conditions have made getting funds for deals harder. Private credit has become key, helping with strategic deals that have clear value plans.

Despite economic challenges, there’s hope for a brighter future. With interest rates stabilising, inflation falling, and markets less shaky, UK sector deals could bounce back. This could mean more health sector growth and more technology deals soon.

The Role of Private Equity in Shpaping UK Acquisition Trends

Private equity has greatly influenced the UK’s deal scene, especially in how it deals with unpredictable markets. The pandemic caused a drop in UK private equity activity at first, but things picked up strongly by the end of 2020. This shows how flexible and strong PE firms are, thanks to their smart investing methods and using capital wisely.

2020 and early 2021 saw a comeback of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), giving PE firms new ways to get and use capital. This has kept PE firms at the forefront of UK deals, focusing on investing in sectors like technology, healthcare, financial services, and industrials. These sectors are growing fast, attracting more investors.

PE firms are now looking at the long-term when they buy companies, more than just making quick buyouts. They’re being careful but smart about it, partly because the pandemic has made them consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues more. This shows they’re listening to what people care about and will keep focusing on ESG.

The UK’s place in the private equity world is second only to the USA, being the biggest and most developed market in Europe. It has the right setup for the industry to grow. Plus, the UK PE market is huge, covering many sectors and regions. There’s a lot of money ready to be invested, showing a bright future for PE deals here.

Strategies for Navigating the UK Acquisition Landscape

The UK market is dynamic, needing careful strategy for success. Statistics show that 99.9% of the business population is made up of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). This highlights the market’s vast size. In fact, about 5.54 million SMEs are registered as of 2023, showing more businesses are starting up.

Navigating the UK market needs strong investment planning. A huge chunk of SMEs (74%) work solo, pointing to many micro-businesses. This means they often need help to grow. Making sure businesses are ready and focusing on being efficient is crucial for their growth plans. This approach helps avoid the financial issues that close 20% of new businesses in their first year.

Forming strategic partnerships is a key to success. For example, Perry Elliott Investment Group and PRY Digital teamed up on 13 September 2023. Partnerships like this boost online presence, offer marketing strategies and help find growth chances. They are particularly useful in growing sectors like non-metallic mineral manufacture and wholesale.

Being ready with assets is essential for good acquisition plans. Sectors like real estate and retail have grown a lot, showing new investment chances. Going to industry events and exploring financing options, like loans based on assets and invoice factoring, reveal more opportunities. These methods help adapt to a changing market.

Good investment planning understands all financial aspects, not just the buying price. This includes legal fees and the money needed to run things. With businesses growing and 30% of them lasting over ten years, smart planning helps firms use market opportunities to succeed in a changing economy.

Transformational Deals and Business Impact

Strategic acquisitions are key for speeding up business strategies and adapting to fast market changes. For example, ASDA buying EG Group UK shows how deals quickly grow customer bases and increase operations.

UK deal volume fell by 18% in 2023, much lower than previous years, with the total value dropping to £83bn. Despite the drop, over half of senior executives see these deals as vital for adapting to new market trends. PwC’s 27th UK CEO Survey found that 21% of CEOs think their companies won’t last another decade without change.

Sectors like technology, media, telecommunications, energy, and healthcare got big attention from investors in 2023. These areas are key for transformative deals because they can innovate and adapt quickly.

Transformative acquisitions

Funding these deals has become harder and more expensive, with private credit becoming more important. But these transformative deals have a big impact, helping businesses adjust strategies to last in uncertain markets. Global deal values dropped from over US$5tn in 2021 to US$2.5tn in 2023, showing that strategic deals are still a path to growth and adaptation.

Cisco’s US$28bn offer to buy Splunk shows how big these deals can be, changing industry standards. Even with market challenges, transformative deals are essential for staying competitive. They’re key for businesses to navigate and succeed in today’s rocky economic scene.

Market Sentiment and Future Outlook

The outlook for M&A in the UK for 2024 is cautiously optimistic. The recent slowdown is giving way to signs of a minor comeback in deal activities. UK CEOs in the consumer market are now focusing on growth, not just cutting costs.

About 56% of top bosses in consumer markets think mergers and acquisitions are key to staying competitive. This approach shows they’re actively tackling the complex UK investment scene. With harder access to finance, they’re turning more to private credit, calling for smart deal-making strategies.

A survey in January 2024 showed consumer sentiment improving to -4, the highest since September 2021. This better feeling among consumers suggests good future M&A prospects. Moreover, 78% of UK CEOs are planning to make strategic growth investments, showing confidence in the market.

Advances in technology and data are making supply chains more transparent and ESG-friendly. Adopting easy-to-use technologies helps make supply chains more efficient. This leads to better market feelings and a stronger investment outlook.

Yet, not everything is smooth. Almost half the consumers expect to spend less on everyday things due to higher costs. But, this is an improvement from last year’s 57%, suggesting things might be getting a bit more stable. Different consumer needs will keep influencing market investments.

Case Studies: Successful UK Acquisitions

In recent years, analysis of case studies shows many successful deals in the UK market. Though there’s been a drop in the number of deals, certain areas like healthcare remain strong. For instance, a big health company was bought by a top private equity firm, showing smart investment in stable sectors during shaky economic times.

The tech, media, and telecom (TMT) sectors have also seen great deals. One key deal was when a big tech company bought a rising gaming company, showing the worth of niche markets. Deals in advertising and publishing sectors aiming to grow digital presence have also done well.

Private equity (PE) has been key, with PE firms behind 42% of deals by volume and 55% by value in 2023. A standout deal was the investment in a top pharmaceutical company, focused on the need for innovation and growth.

A leading publishing house acquired a well-known podcasting platform in another successful deal. This not only jumped on the growing podcast trend but also boosted the buyer’s market status. Such strategic buys show that aligning with market trends can lead to sustained success.

Even in tough times, case studies reveal that smart, strategic acquisitions can bring big benefits. Successful deals, whether they’re for entering new markets or boosting tech capabilities, show how strategic M&A can lead to business growth and leadership in the market.

The Importance of Strategic Planning and Value Creation

Strategic planning and value creation are key in acquisitions. A survey of 300 UK corporate leaders found that over half see deal-making as crucial. They believe it helps stay up-to-date, creates value, and speeds up change. This shows how essential a value creation mindset is. It builds business worth and protects against future unknowns.

For growth, companies have four main strategies: invest to grow, divest and optimise, pivot, or maximise current resources. Acquiring a promising business is a top choice for those with good cash reserves. Meanwhile, focusing on what they do best and cutting off what they don’t need aligns with their primary goals.

Pivoting meets changing customer demands, leading to more sales, profit, and market share. Yet, big companies often overlook chances to truly optimise. Embracing efficiency, cross-selling, innovation, and collaboration can add value. Long-term thinking is proven to boost earnings and profitability, a study of 615 US firms from 2001 to 2015 shows.

Good strategic planning needs clear goals and a solid method, like McKinsey’s 7S. This connects strategy, organisation, operations, values, skills, leadership, and people. Execution depends on these elements plus a strong culture. Clarity, communication, and proper spread of these factors are vital. As the UK’s buying scene changes, having a solid plan for creating value is essential for investment success.

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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