UK's special M&A relationship with US is "unbreakable", says Bank of America Merrill Lynch's global chief

William Turvill
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EU Referendum - Signage And Symbols
The UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016 (Source: Getty)

The US and UK’s “special relationship” in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is “unbreakable”, a top American dealmaker said today, amid concerns Brexit could harm British companies’ attractiveness.

Steve Baronoff, chairman of global M&A at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, also played down concerns around what President Donald Trump could mean for US deals.

Trump has sparked fear among dealmakers over some of his statements on M&A. For instance, in the run-up to the election, he vowed to block AT&T’s Time Warner takeover.

Read more: Trump can’t break the Special Relationship

“From a US perspective, you have to really separate the tweeter from the person who’s actually getting to deals done on a case-by-case basis,” Baronoff said at a Thomson Reuters conference in London today.

“So at the top, you have somebody who’s a political animal, but if you actually look at the team he’s put in place – whether that’s Tillerson or Cohn… or Wilbur Ross – these are very free market, rational, thoughtful people.”

On the UK-US relationship, Baronoff added: “From my perspective, that special relationship comes from the bottom up. It comes from the people, it comes from the shared culture, it comes from all of the executives having interaction back and forth.

“And that relationship, I think, is unbreakable. It may ebb and flow a little bit based on who’s running the country at that time.”

Read more: M&A activity within EU reaches 10-year high

Also speaking at the event, Karen Cook, chairman of investment banking at Goldman Sachs, suggested UK M&A activity could be held up due to political uncertainty after the General Election.

“I think we’ve got a period of uncertainty ahead of us,” she said. “I don’t see this uncertainty being resolved very quickly. Maybe it does, I hope it does.

“But so long as uncertainty is there in a material way in terms of what our negotiating position is on Brexit, I don’t see that as particularly positive for M&A in the UK, in the short-term.”

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