UK firms snap up more rivals

BRITISH companies took advantage of the weak global economic recovery to spend £10.2bn on acquisitions in the last quarter.

The Office for National Statistics figures for April to June mark a slowdown on the first three months of the year, but are still the second highest since the first quarter of 2008.

The largest acquisition was the $7.3bn (£4.58bn) purchase of oil and gas firm Pride International by London-based and US-listed Ensco, the owner of the world’s second-largest offshore drilling fleet.

Several other high-profile deals were completed in the second quarter, including the acquisition, by Pizza Express founder Hugh Osmond, of US temporary power provider APR and oil services firm John Wood’s sale of its well support business to GE.

Rhys Phillip, partner at Ernst & Young and head of UK and Ireland mergers and acquisitions, said there had been a general rise in confidence in the second-quarter as macro-economic conditions stabilised and began to show signs of improvement.

“That was all thrown in the air in quarter three [however] as the Greek crisis appeared to deepen and questions were raised about the US’s credit rating. Therefore I am not convinced this a sustained recovery.”

The picture abroad was more gloomy. The total value of M&A deals by British companies overseas fell 51 per cent from the previous quarter – when GDF took control of International Power – with the 41 deals closed the lowest since the first quarter of 2010.

Acquisitions in the UK by foreign firms totalled £8.5bn in the second quarter, higher than the previous quarter but still low in historic terms.