Belfast Telegraph

Moy Park and UTV lead way as big business deals soar by 50%

By John Mulgrew

The number of big business deals increased by more than 50% last year, buoyed by the sale of Moy Park and broadcaster UTV.

There were a total of 165 transactions, a jump of 59% over 2014's total of 104, according to the report by Experian.

As expected with such a huge increase in deal numbers, the overall value of transactions recorded rose from around £1.72bn in 2014 to £1.88bn.

Topping the list for law firms advising on the most deals was Tughans, up one place - acting on 37 deals, beating last year's number one, A&L Goodbody.

In terms of value, A&L Goodbody held the number one spot, advising on deals totalling just under £1.3bn, ahead of DLA Piper in second place with £352m, and third-placed Carson McDowell on £319m.

The largest deal last year was the sale of Moy Park to the Brazilian firm JBS, for £946m.

And UDG Healthcare - which includes Sangers in Northern Ireland - was sold to global firm McKesson for £298m.

And UTV's sale to ITV was the third largest deal of the year, at £100m, which was first revealed by the Belfast Telegraph back in August.

The company's television division, which includes UTV Northern Ireland and UTV Ireland, was sold back in October, although the sale will not complete until later this year.

It's been a buoyant year for 2015 in an economy which is still in recovery, according to John-George Willis, head of the corporate department at Tughans.

"There are sectors which have been generating the deals over the last three or four years, such as IT, engineering and agri-business," he said.

"We see that, particularly in the agri-business sector, activity is up and continuing."

He said one highlight was that the value paid for businesses was also on the rise.

And while the value of the deals was the smallest of the 12 UK regions, aside from Wales, Northern Ireland saw one of the largest rises in sales, year-on-year.

Belfast firm Kainos became one of just three Northern Ireland firms currently listed on the London Stock Exchange.

That was a deal valued at around £54m.

And early indications for this year are already positive, according to Peter Stafford, corporate partner at A&L Goodbody.

"Initial indications for the Northern Ireland market this year are positive and we have entered 2016 with a very strong pipeline of local and international deal activity," he said.

"We continued to see increased confidence among both local and international investors seeking to invest in Northern Ireland and I think this will continue throughout 2016 - particularly as we begin to edge closer to the lower corporation tax rate in April 2018."

Other big deals included a host of retail parks across Northern Ireland.

Co Down retail park Bloomfield Shopping Centre was sold for £54.5m, while Ballymena's Fairhill was bought by UK-based property fund Rockspring.

At the start of the year, another big deal included Aventas, formerly Quinn Group, which sold off its Polycasa business in a deal worth £90m.

The top financial adviser table saw Goodbody narrowly grabbing the top spot, beating PwC into second place.

Belfast Telegraph