Thursday 3 January 2019 4:55 pm

UK M&A value soars by more than a quarter in 2018 as number of mega-deals increases

The value of merger and acquisitions involving UK companies soared by more than a quarter last year as the number of mega-deals surged.

Deal activity reached a three year high in 2018, while M&A activity involving UK firms hit £359.9bn which is 28 per cent more than the value recorded in 2017, according to data from Refinitiv.

Activity spiked in the first half of the year, with eight deals valued at over £5bn announced in the first six months of 2018 and two revealed in the second half. The largest acquisition of the year was Comcast’s £37bn offer for Sky.

A total of 71 mergers and acquisitions involving a British company and valued at £1bn or more were announced last year, which is the highest number in 17 years.

“M&A activity involving UK companies increased 28 per cent last year. The growth, driven by flurry of mega deals during the first half of the year, saw deal activity reach a 3-year high and a level only exceeded once in the last decade,” said Lucille Jones, deals intelligence analyst at Refinitiv.

“The last six months of 2018 saw a marked slowdown in dealmaking from the pace seen at the start of the year. Whether political uncertainty dampens corporate confidence and affects deal making into 2019 remains to be seen.”

The UK was the third most targeted country by value after the US and China and UK firms were the fourth most acquisitive globally in 2018, after the US, China and Japan.

CMC Markets analyst David Madden said: “2018 saw some major deals, but now as global stock markets are off their highs, and there are some concerns about global growth, 2019 is likely to start off on a softer note.

“The landscape has changed greatly in the past 12 months as political uncertainty in Italy, strained trade relations between the US and China, Brexit, and the odd whisper about a possible recession in the US, have dampened the previously bullish sentiment.

"Many deals are paid for with debt, and companies might be cautious about loading up on debt for fear we are heading into economically cooler times.”