Explore the £9bn change in the East of England’s business acquisitions
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A sharp fall in business deals in the East of England could be down to investors being picky and more cautious amid political uncertainty at the start of the year, say experts.
The value of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the region dropped by £9bn or 80% in the first three months of the year compared to 2017, the Experian M&A Review for quarter 1 of 2018 shows.
The volume of deals also feel by 31%, down to 115 from 166 for the same period the year before.
But Alex Kenworthy, principal associate at law firm Mills & Reeve’s Norwich office, said the figures were not representative of what he had seen.
He said: “The deal flow has remained pretty steady with no real peaks and troughs but the profile of acquisitions has changed quite a lot.
“We have seen lots of investment coming from international buyers which could be because they are taking advantage of the weak pound since the referendum vote.”
However, Mr Kenworthy said transactions had been taking longer to push through which he believed was down to businesses being more cautious.
“Whether it is on the buy or sell side, businesses seem to be taking more time and often being pickier about what they acquire,” he said. “Where before maybe they would take a punt on a whole group, now they are cherry-picking the parts of a business they want, which can make things tricky for the seller.”
Mr Kenworthy added the firm had dealt with several transactions recently which had required rearranging how groups of companies were set up.
The report found mid-market deals had risen from 11 last year to 13 in 2018, while the small and large transaction volumes both decreased, by 44% and 50% respectively.
Tim Hansell, director of corporate finance at advisory firm Grant Thornton’s Norwich office, said: “We are seeing activity volumes are heading up.
“In terms of the national picture the large transactions have probably dried up more than the lower mid-market which is more relevant to East Anglia.”
Mr Hansell said he thought there would be more privately-owned businesses being sold to corporate groups over the next year as firms sought to consolidate, with an eye on changes after Brexit.