Assessing Mergers & Acquisitions in Ireland: Insights From William Fry’s 2023 M&A Report

In this episode of William Fry’s Legal Podcast, host Morgan Flanagan Creagh talks with corporate partner Mark Talbot, focusing on William Fry’s M&A report for 2023 and its predictions for Ireland’s market.

Published on 15 April 2024
Mark Talbot, William Fry, Chambers Expert Focus contributor
Mark Talbot
Ranked in Capital Markets: Equity in Chambers Global
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Morgan Flanagan Creagh, William Fry, Chambers Expert Focus contributor
Morgan Flanagan Creagh
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The discussion starts with an overview of the recent trends in mergers and acquisitions, noting a particular shift in 2023 where deal volume increased by 10% from 2022, but deal value decreased by 20%. Talbot attributes this change to a range of factors, including heightened interest rates and the end of an unusually active period boosted by COVID-19 fiscal stimulus measures.

Interestingly, Talbot points out that while large transactions have been impacted by the financial environment, leading to a decline in deal value, the overall number of deals (volume) remains strong, suggesting a resilient M&A market in Ireland. He emphasises that for a small market like Ireland, deal volume is a more reliable indicator than deal value, as the latter can be significantly affected by a few large deals.

Comparing Ireland’s M&A activity to global trends, Talbot mentions that Ireland mirrors the broader European and global markets in terms of deal value, but it outperforms them in deal volume. This is particularly notable in the mid-market segment (deals between EUR5 million and EUR250 million), which has remained robust. Ireland’s economy, performing better than its European peers and attracting significant inbound M&A, especially from the US, contributes to this resilience.

“Inbound M&A is really prevalent in the Irish market – 19 of the 20 largest deals involved foreign buyers, and in terms of the the geographies we most often see, listeners won’t be surprised to hear that it’s the US and the UK.”

Talbot then delves into sector-specific trends, noting the continued dominance of financial services, TMT and the pharma/medical/biotech sectors, collectively accounting for over 50% of M&A activity either by value or volume. He predicts these sectors will stay active, with potential emerging interests in leisure, real estate, and energy transition sectors.

Despite a decline in private equity deal volume and value in 2023, Talbot remains optimistic about 2024, citing a stabilising interest rate environment and a relatively benign economic landscape. He expects a rebound in large-scale deals, supported by early 2024 indicators and global transactions. He cautions, however, against geopolitical uncertainties, including numerous upcoming general elections, which could create a hesitant atmosphere for major corporate decisions later in the year.

“Wider geopolitical issues could be on the mind of mind of CEOs. An escalation in the conflict in the Middle East would certainly give pause for thought when considering undertaking a transformational transaction.”

The podcast concludes with Talbot offering a detailed perspective on the state of M&A in Ireland, painting a picture of a market that is navigating through changing economic tides while maintaining strong performance, particularly in its mid-market segment.

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