Belfast Telegraph

Firms shake hands on record number of corporate deals in Northern Ireland

By Margaret Canning

There were 93 corporate deals reached in Northern Ireland during the first six months of 2016, latest figures show.

Information company Experian said it was the highest number ever recorded in a first half in the province. But total deal values were down by more than one-third to £798m, Experian added.

And the fall in deal value had been felt across the UK, with Experian attributing the trend to a slowdown at the top-end of the market.

Experian's report said: "Overall it appears that deal activity didn't take too much of a hit in the run-up to the EU referendum, possibly as many investors expected the status quo to remain, and it may be another six months before we really start see the impact the Brexit vote has had on the region."

Law firm Tughans was the most active legal adviser, helping in 27 of the 93 deals.

Manufacturing was the busiest sector for M&A (mergers and acquisitions) activity in Northern Ireland with volumes up 30%.

And wholesale and retail deals more than doubled, with 27 recorded transactions.

Major deals in the period included the purchase of Delta Print and Packaging in west Belfast by Finnish company Huhtamaki for £80m, as well as the sale of tech companies PathXL and Sophia Search.

John-George Willis, the head of Tughan's corporate department, said: "As a firm we have experienced an active first half of the year as evidenced by our deal tally.

"The last quarter saw a number of major transactions completed including the purchase of Delta Print and Packaging by Huhtamaki for £80m, the sale of PathXL to Philips and the sale of Sophia Search Ltd to Mixaroo Inc - all major international companies investing in Northern Ireland."

The most expensive acquisition was the purchase of Homebase holding company Hampden Group - which is based in Northern Ireland - for £340m. It has been bought over by Australian firm Wesfarmers, which trades as Bunnings.

And shopping destinations Junction One and The Outlet were acquired for £40m by Tristan Capital Partners and Lotus Group in Banbridge.

Jane Turner, research manager at Experian MarketIQ, said it was hard to predict how M&A activity would be affected in the second half of the year.

"It does seem probable that there will be some reduction in deal flow in the short-term as companies take stock," she said.

"However, the imperatives for UK businesses to make deals are still in place, and the new economic reality will likely create its own opportunities for canny investors. With that in mind, dealmakers on both the buy and sell side will feel that it is more important than ever to carry out rigorous research."

Belfast Telegraph