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Britain avoids M&A collapse as foreign buyers go Brexit bargain hunting

By Pamela Barbaglia and Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain prevented a collapse in mergers and acquisitions exercise after the shock Brexit vote as foreign corporations used sterling’s spectacular devaluation towards the U.S. greenback to snap up British corporations, Thomson Reuters knowledge exhibits.

British M&A totalled $177.5 billion (145 billion kilos) in 2016, down sharply from the document $394.eight billion reached in 2015 – a yr when the UK knowledge was skewed by two of three largest international offers – however was according to the longer 5-year development.

Total annual mergers and acquisitions values averaged $139.three billion for the 5 years to the beginning of 2015. Britain additionally retained its place as the third largest M&A market after the United States and China.

Behind the headline numbers, there was one other clear development: foreign buyers – such as Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox – purchasing with dollars for bargains whereas home UK-to-UK dealmaking fell off sharply.

“Brexit should never have been talked up as an Armageddon moment for UK M&A, especially with such a sharp devaluation in the currency which has clearly been a stimulus for overseas buyers,” Tim Gee, London-based M&A companion at regulation agency Baker & McKenzie, informed Reuters.

“Much of the activity in 2016 was skewed towards foreign buyers with less UK-to-UK activity,” Gee stated. “Total activity levels were not really knocked that much by Brexit but who was doing the buying did shift – deal values in 2016 are very similar to the historical trend.”

Inbound M&A was $143.7 billion, once more down from 2015 however means above the $85.9 billion annual common for the 5 years to 2015, whereas home M&A was $33.7 billion, down from a mean of $53.four billion over the identical interval.

There have been simply 1,355 home offers – the bottom determine in almost 20 years of Thomson Reuters knowledge.

2015 was a report yr for dealmaking involving UK-listed corporations because of a collection of jumbo offers together with Anheuser-Busch Inbev’s $110.three billion acquisition of SABMiller and Shell’s $53 billion merger with BG Group.


The June 23 vote took many buyers and chief executives unexpectedly, triggering the deepest political and monetary turmoil in Britain since World War Two and the most important ever one-day fall in sterling towards the greenback.

On the day of the vote, sterling traded above $1.50 however is now buying and selling under $1.23 and fell under $1.15 at one level in October.

While opponents of leaving the EU had warned that the United Kingdom’s financial system would stall and funding cease if voters opted to exit, the info because the Brexit vote has proven the financial system was resilient.

Just every week after Theresa May entered Downing Street to switch David Cameron as British prime minister, Softbank <9984.T> founder Masayoshi Son made a $30.7 billion transfer for UK-based chip designer ARM Holdings.

“I am one of the first people to bet with a big size on the UK after Brexit,” Son, who’s ranked by Forbes as Japan’s second richest man with a $14.9 fortune, advised reporters in London on the time. “Talking is easy. I am proving it . . . This is my big bet.”

The second largest deal of the yr was struck by Murdoch: a $14.6 billion deal to purchase European pay-TV agency Sky .

People conversant in the matter informed Reuters the American media company pounced after the Brexit vote despatched the pound down towards the U.S. greenback and Sky’s share worth tumbling.

“The worst predictions surrounding Brexit and its potential impact on our economy have so far failed to materialize,” Derek Shakespeare, co-head of UK M&A at Barclays, informed Reuters. “With the weaker pound UK businesses have become 10 to 20 percent cheaper.”

“But the devil is in the detail: we have several years ahead of us to understand what the trading relationship with the EU will look like. So there’s a degree of caution when looking at transactions in Britain,” he stated.


Goldman Sachs , the world’s prime dealmaker, was prime once more in Britain’s league tables, adopted by JPMorgan and Lazard which rose to 3rd place in Britain above Deutsche Bank, UBS, Centerview Partners LLC and Morgan Stanley , Thomson Reuters knowledge confirmed.

“Geopolitical events such as Brexit have impacted CEO confidence for deal-making over the first part of the year and through the summer,” stated Gilberto Pozzi, co-head of worldwide M&A at Goldman Sachs.

“We are now seeing a rebound in M&A activity although boards remain quite cautious in reviewing the opportunities and the pros and cons of M&A transactions,” Pozzi stated.

Barclays’ Shakespeare stated many personal fairness funds have lately bought belongings and cashed out of excessive multiples thus boosting their capacity to boost funds.

So what is going to occur in 2017?

Baker & McKenzie’s Gee stated he anticipated low ranges of exercise amongst monetary establishments and primary supplies, assets and commodities whereas M&A scorching spots would come with know-how, innovation and healthcare.

“It will be a mildly better performance next year than this years with overall uptick in deal value,” Gee stated. “There is a limit to how long you can sit on your hands.”

Prime Minister May, who has repeatedly used the instance of Softbank’s ARM buy as proof that buyers are assured in Britain, has promised to set off formal Brexit talks by the top of March.

But May has given few particulars about what kind of exit deal she is going to search to barter.

“Investment coming into the UK is down amid uncertainty around Brexit and that uncertainty will linger into next year,” stated Dwayne Lysaght, head of UK M&A at JP Morgan.

“That said, I think uncertainty is becoming the new norm, and the fundamentals for dealmaking remain intact,” he stated.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; modifying by Anna Willard)

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