The Irish M&A market recorded 240 significant transactions in 2021 – a 33% rise on 2020, and the highest deal volume since 2006.
The William Fry M&A Review 2021, in association with Mergermarket, also found that total M&A value recovered significantly, rising by 185% to €24.6 billion.
Key findings for 2021 (the 11th year of the report) include:
- 172 inbound cross-border transactions in 2021, worth a total of €19.2 billion,
- 10 ‘megadeals’ (worth €500 million or more) – three times more than in 2020,
- Total value of M&A activity in Ireland came to €24.6 billion – a 185% annual increase,
- Deal volume increased by 33% annually, to a total of 240 significant transactions,
- Private equity deals totalled €10.76 billion – a 135% increase on value from 2020.
The technology, media and telecom (TMT) and financial-services sectors were the most active, with TMT accounting for 28% of total deal volume, and financial services accounting for 29% of all deals by value.
Stephen Keogh (William Fry) said that Ireland’s economy bounced back remarkably strongly in 2021, with booming multinational and a very strong performance from the domestic economy.
Led by Allied Irish Bank’s €4.1 billion acquisition of Ulster Bank Ireland’s commercial loan book, there were ten deals valued at more than €500 million over 2021 – collectively worth €18.1 billion – compared with only three such transactions in 2020.
Ireland’s mid-market was the most active area of the M&A landscape for deal-making in 2021: 81% of all deals with a disclosed value recorded over the year were between €5 million and €250 million.
Nine of the top 20 largest deals of the year were private equity-related, including two buyout deals and seven exits. Among the former, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice’s €3.4-billion purchase of UDG Healthcare was the biggest PE transaction of the year, while the largest exit saw Eurazeo sell a stake in payments firm Planet to Advent, though Eurazeo also reinvested in the company alongside PE group Advent.
The largest Irish TMT deal last year was the €1.8 billion team-up between private-equity firm Advent and European investment group Eurazeo to take control of Ireland’s Planet (digital payment services provider).
Other notable TMT deals were the special purpose acquisition vehicle Live Oak’s €1.2 billion merger with Navitas Semiconductor; and Bridgepoint’s acquisition of software specialist Fenergo at a valuation in excess of US$1 billion.
The pharmaceutical, medical and biotechnology (PMB) sector also saw a busy year of M&A in 2021, with 41 transactions. Those deals represented 17% of all Irish activity by volume, the second-busiest area of the market.
2021 recorded 172 inbound M&A transactions worth a total of €19.2 billion. That was a 33% increase in volume terms, and a 132% increase by value on the previous year – a significant contribution to the overall rise in Irish M&A activity over the past year.
All but three of the 20 largest deals in Ireland in 2021 were inbound,/ cross-border transactions, with US acquirers accounting for seven of those 17 transactions. Across the whole of the M&A market, US-based buyers were responsible for €13.2 billion worth of deals.
Keogh concluded that, while it may be difficult to sustain the pace of deal-making seen in 2021, the economic backdrop remains supportive, and there is good reason to expect another robust year of M&A activity in Ireland over 2022.