Highest volume of M&A deals in the Irish market since 2006

The Irish M&A market recorded 240 significant transactions in 2021, a 33% increase from 2020 and the highest transaction volume since 2006.

William Fry M&A Review 2021, in association with Mergermarket, also found that the total value of mergers and acquisitions rebounded significantly, rising by 185% to €24.6bn.

Key findings for 2021 (the 11th year of the report) include:

  • 172 incoming cross-border transactions in 2021, for a total value of €19.2 billion,
  • 10 ‘mega deals’ (worth €500 million or more), three times more than in 2020,
  • The total value of M&A activity in Ireland was €24.6 billion, an annual increase of 185%.
  • Transaction volume increased 33% annually, to a total of 240 significant transactions,
  • Private equity deals totaled €10.76 billion, a 135% increase in value from 2020.

The technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) and financial services sectors were the most active, with TMT accounting for 28% of total transaction volume and financial services accounting for 29% of all transactions by value.

Stephen Keogh (William Fry) said that Ireland’s economy recovered remarkably in 2021, with a booming multinational and a very strong performance of the national economy.

mega offers

Led by Allied Irish Bank’s acquisition of Ulster Bank Ireland’s commercial loan portfolio, there were ten deals valued at more than €500m during 2021, for a collective value of €18.1bn, compared with just three such transactions in 2020.

Ireland’s mid-market was the most active area of ​​the M&A landscape for deal making in 2021, with 81% of all reported value deals recorded during the year ranging between €5m and €250m.

Private capital

Nine of the 20 largest deals of the year were related to private equity, including two buyout deals and seven exits. Among the former, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice’s €3.4bn purchase of UDG Healthcare was the biggest PE deal of the year, while the biggest exit was Eurazeo selling a stake in payments firm Planet to Advent, although Eurazeo also reinvested in the company together with Adviento from the physical education group.

The biggest Irish TMT deal last year was the €1.8bn partnership between private equity firm Advent and European investment group Eurazeo to take control of Ireland’s Planet (digital payment service provider).

Other notable TMT deals included the merger of Live Oak special purpose acquisition vehicle with Navitas Semiconductor for €1.2 billion; and Bridgepoint’s acquisition of software specialist Fenergo for a valuation of over US$1 billion.

The pharmaceutical, medical and biotech (PMB) sector also experienced a busy year of mergers and acquisitions in 2021, with 41 transactions. Those deals represented 17% of all Irish activity by volume, the second most active area of ​​the market.

incoming activity

In 2021, there were 172 incoming M&A transactions for a total value of €19.2 billion. That was a 33% increase in volume terms and a 132% increase in value over the previous year, a significant contribution to the overall increase in M&A activity in Ireland over the past year.

All but three of the 20 largest deals in Ireland in 2021 were inbound/cross-border transactions, with US acquirers accounting for seven of those 17 transactions. Across the M&A market, US-based buyers were responsible for deals worth €13.2 billion.

Keogh concluded that while it may be difficult to maintain the pace of trading seen in 2021, the economic backdrop remains supportive and there is good reason to expect another strong year of Irish M&A activity in 2022.

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