UK mergers and acquisitions fall to lowest total since 1987

Billy Ehrenberg
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Two failed pharma mega-mergers pushed the numbers down (Source: Getty)

Last year was officially the year of the failed merger. According to new data from the ONS, there were fewer mergers and acquisitions involving UK companies in 2014 than in any year since 1987, when ONS records begin.

The figures

There were 20 completed acquisitions of UK companies by foreign businesses in the fourth quarter of the year, the lowest total since the first quarter of 2013.

UK companies were much busier splashing the cash abroad; they acquired 105 companies during the 12 months, an 81 per cent increase over 2013.

Why it’s interesting

2014 was a year when big things were meant to happen. Pfizer and AstraZeneca (£53bn), Abbvie and Shire (£32bn): both looked set to be huge and both fell through. If they’d come off, the numbers would look very different.

2015 could be different too: low commodity prices mean that the traditional big players could be forced to streamline and sell or spin off their assets. This could cause an acquisitions feeding frenzy as smaller companies take advantage of the volatile conditions.

Here is a graph showing the total value of mergers and acquisitions in the UK, by type. The ONS only collects data on transactions greater than £1m.

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