Last summer, I wrote an article entitled “Green Shoots of Confidence”, as we as a nation began to ease out of what was, at the time, our first nationwide lockdown of the Covid 19 pandemic. Little did we know, or could we have predicted, that we’d now be planning our route out of Lockdown 3.0.
12 months on and the world has changed dramatically. The hospitality and entertainment industries, fundamental to English culture, business and our economy, have suffered immeasurable damage, effectively being closed for the vast proportion of the last 12 months. Our healthcare sector has been pushed to its limits (and in some cases, has been overwhelmed), as all those in the NHS and the care sector have worked round the clock to provide care and support to those that need it. Our education system has had to adapt to virtual and online teaching with exams cancelled and our retail experience leaves the high street looking desolate as we all adapt to online shopping habits. This all follows confirmation in the Budget a few weeks ago that Government spending in connection with the pandemic will have reached record highs of over £400 billion.
And yet, if the vaccination programme continues as expected, we start on the Government’s roadmap out of the pandemic and we should hopefully see restrictions ease as we approach 21 June 2021. So does the roadmap to recovery also look rosy for the corporate finance world? Well, if the past few months are anything to go by, the “green shoots of confidence” I wrote about last year are certainly turning into a level of cautious optimism! Trends continue to suggest that deals are taking longer to get to completion, that more due diligence is being undertook and buyers and funders are less prepared to take certain risks without a viable right of recourse (either against the sellers, via retentions or via an insurance policy). However, whilst the budget in March caused some concern about the hiking up of capital gains tax rates, and hence an increase in pre-budget transactions, the pipeline looks promising, deals are still coming to fruition and there is a real momentum of activity.
On a local level, Howes Percival’s Northampton corporate team have completed a further succession of fundraising, private equity and trade sale/acquisition transactions in the last quarter, showing there is still confidence in UK based businesses, whether you are acquiring or selling, and showing deals can still be done despite lockdown.
Since the end of 2020, we have advised on a wide array of transactions including:
- the sale of an adult gaming centre business with multiple outlets to one of the country’s largest independent owner of such sites;
- the acquisition of Wales based Brewery Conwy Brewery and Pookchurch Vineyard, both backed by Cadman Capital Group;
- the disposal of Northamptonshire based Signature Ribbon to Cole Fabrics plc;
- the acquisition of the J Clubb Group of Companies by Dutch based Agar Dry Mortar;
- a follow up investment for a private equity fund into a local occupational health provider;
- a management buy-out of a specialist coatings supplier based locally;
- a full exit for a shareholder from a group of locally based IT-based businesses;
- the corporate aspects of a disposal of a multi-million pound development site in Milton Keynes; and
- the acquisition of an East-Midlands based warehousing manufacturer, providing guaranteed access to a vital part of the buyer’s supply chain;
The message remains that there are still willing buyers and willing sellers wanting to secure future growth and viability for their businesses. If you are considering a corporate transaction, whether a disposal, acquisition or fundraising exercise, please do not hesitate to contact Matt Thompson.
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