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United Kingdom M&A

Updated 12 January 2021

UK M&A surged to GBP 234.5bn in 2020, its second highest annual value on record, despite the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, following a flurry of activity in the final quarter of the year. After a collapse in dealmaking in the second quarter following the outbreak of COVID-19 across Europe, corporates and sponsors looked to spend in the second half of the year. However, with COVID cases rocketing and the introduction of a new lockdown, M&A could be set to regress in the opening quarter of 2021.

  • UK M&A, in line with European activity, saw a clear recovery in the second half of the year – driven by a number of high-profile deals. In 2H20, the UK saw GBP 159.1bn across 655 deals, over double the GBP 75.4bn (563 deals) in the first six months. There were four deals worth at least GBP 5bn recorded in 2H20, including S&P Global’s [NYSE: SPGI] GBP 32.4bn acquisition of financial data company IHS Markit [NYSE:INFO], announced in late November. In total, GBP 234.5bn (1,218 deals) was recorded in 2020.
  • Private equity buyouts reached their highest annual value since the global financial crisis last year. A total of GBP 44bn (271 buyouts) was spent by sponsors in 2020, a 2.1% uptick versus 2019 (EUR 43.1bn, 283 deals). Following robust fundraising throughout 2020, sponsors should continue to deploy their vast amounts of dry-powder in the coming year. After a slow first six months, exits recovered strongly in the second half of the year. The final quarter was particularly active with 70 deals worth GBP 12.1bn, the highest quarterly exit deal count on Mergermarket record.
  • Financial services, tech, and telecoms were the only three sectors to see an increase by deal count last year versus 2019. Financial services was the most active sector by value in 2020, reaching GBP 47.4bn across 128 deals, up from GBP 12.5bn (122 deals) a year prior. This was driven by two high-profile insurance deals, namely the GBP 27.1bn tie-up between Aon [NYSE:AON] and Willis Towers Watson [NASDAQ:WLTW] and the GBP 7.2bn takeover of RSA Insurance [LON:RSA].

Top Deals FY20

Announced DateTarget CompanyTarget Dominant SectorBidder CompanySeller CompanyDeal Value GBP(bn)
30-NovIHS Markit LtdMediaS&P Global Inc

13-SepSVF Holdco (UK) LimitedTechnologyNVIDIA Corporation
SoftBank Group Corp; SoftBank Investment Advisers
09-MarWillis Towers Watson Public Limited CompanyFinancial ServicesAon plc

07-MayVirgin Media Inc; Telefonica O2 Holdings LimitedTelecomsVirgin Mobile Inc/ Telefonica O2 Europe Plc JV
Telefonica SA; Liberty Global Plc
18-NovRSA Insurance Group PlcFinancial ServicesIntact Financial-Tryg Consortium


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