Figures from legal firm William Fry show that merger-and-acquisition (M&A) activity in Ireland reached a record high in the first six months of 2021.
Its mid-year Mergers & Acquisitions Review 2021, published in association with Mergermarket, shows that 106 deals were recorded in the first half of the year – a 33% rise on the same period in 2020, and the most in any six-month period since Mergermarket began compiling the data in 2006.
The value of these deals was €19.6 billion – more than eight times the €2.4 billion recorded in the same period in 2020. William Fry says that there have already been nine deals worth more than €500 million this year, compared with only three in the whole of last year.
Competition pushes values up
“International buyers – both corporate and private equity – have been a key driver of this activity, with the value of M&A conducted by overseas bidders totalling €15 billion, nearly twice as much as the whole of 2020,” said Stephen Keogh (Head of Corporate/M&A, pictured).
The largest deal was AIB’s acquisition of Ulster Bank Ireland’s commercial-lending business from the Royal Bank of Scotland for €4.1 billion.
Keogh added that competition within high-growth sectors – such as technology, healthcare and consumer businesses – pushed up valuations, and that there was no sign of activity slowing down.
US private equity dominant
18 out of the top 20 deals of the first half of 2021 were inbound transactions, with US buyers spending €10.7 billion on Irish firms. They were responsible for 26 deals, while UK buyers came next, taking part in 16 deals worth just under €1.3 billion.
US private equity continued to dominate the Irish market, according to the William Fry report. The largest deal in this category was US buy-out firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice’s €3.4 billion takeover offer for UDG Healthcare.
The TMT (technology, media and telecoms) sector generated the largest number of deals in the first six months of 2021, taking up 27% of overall M&A volume.