Belfast Telegraph

Healthy rise in Northern Ireland corporate deals 'poised to continue'

By John Mulgrew

The value of big business deals in Northern Ireland shot up to £1.24bn in the first half of the year, buoyed by the sale of meat giant Moy Park - the sixth largest in Northern Ireland's history, a new report has said.

That single huge sale meant the value of deals completed in Northern Ireland shot up almost 500% on the same period in 2014, according to the report by Experian.

The figure was also boosted by early deals including Aventas, formerly Quinn Group, which sold off its Polycasa business in a deal worth £90m.

Northern Ireland's biggest employer Moy Park was sold for $1.5bn (£945m) to Brazilian food group JBS S.A, just last month.

But while the Moy Park sale led to a huge surge in mergers and acquisitions value in Northern Ireland, the overall number of deals fell to 44.

The UK as a whole saw a total of 2,776 deals announced during the first half of 2015.

That's a decline of 2.9% compared to the 2,860 transactions recorded in the previous year.

And those behind some of the deals are optimistic that firms will "remain busy" working on acquisitions throughout the year.

Several top Belfast law firms came out on top as the busiest during the course of the first six months of the year.

Carson McDowell was the busiest adviser, working on a total of nine transactions here. That was just ahead of A&L Goodbody and Tughans.

And aside from big name deals such as Moy Park, the number of small deals - between £500,000 and £10m - increased in number, from seven last year to 13 in the first six months of 2015.

There was also evidence of demand in the retail end, with the sale of Erneside Shopping Centre in Enniskillen to Tristan Capital and Ellandi for £34.25m at the end of March.

Meanwhile, Ireland's largest hotel group Dalata acquired the Holiday Inn on Ormeau Avenue for £18.5m in March, in what is understood to be the biggest-ever hotel transaction in the city.

John George Willis, head of the corporate department at Tughans, said he remained optimistic about the level of deals being done over the second half of the year.

"There are several transactions that are ongoing and we are not seeing any reduction in corporate transactions," he said.

"The size of corporate transactions is increasing noticeably.

"We have seen growth in the economy again, and there are many very good businesses in Northern Ireland, and we are seeing some of those being sold, and some acquiring other businesses.

"We are seeing more bank acquisition finance in the mergers and acquisition transactions.

"There's a fair increase in corporate activity, and law firms are very busy. My view is that they will remain busy through the year."

Belfast Telegraph