Private equity dealmakers are rushing toward sterling safety

Michael Bow
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UK private equity buyout values shot up by nearly a quarter last year as dealmakers keen to do business in Europe headed towards the safe haven status of the UK’s sterling currency, a study out today reveals.

Buyout activity across the UK increased 23 per cent to reach £15.7bn for 2012, the data shows, with the rise in volumes led by a surge in the size of deals being done through the UK. Buyout numbers as a percentage of UK mergers and acquisitions (M&A) rose to 45 per cent in the first nine months of this year, compared to 33 per cent in 2011.

Average deal size shot up to £84m from £68m in 2011, despite the number of deals staying flat, at 189 versus 187 last year.

The data is published by the Centre for Management Buyout Research backed by professional services firm Ernst & Young and private equity house Equistone Partners Europe.

E&Y private equity leader Sachin Date said: “Private equity funds are growing increasingly worried about how the Eurozone crisis will play out and as a result the UK has benefited and held up well compared to Europe.”

The rise was led by a series of “mega” buyouts this year, including the £1.4bn management buyout of Iceland Foods and the £1.2bn buyout of Misys.

The study also reveals the number of private equity exits plunged last year, from 162 to 134, as dealmakers continue to hold onto their portfolio companies despite pressure from investors to have their money returned.