The North East’s deals market has seen a major upsurge during 2013 with signs of further activity to come in 2014, according to one of the region’s leading law firms.
Corporate finance experts at Ward Hadaway report a marked rise in transactions across the board during the past 12 months with little sign of deal levels falling off into the new year.
The Top 100 UK law firm says the higher number of mergers, acquisitions, investments, fundings and sales during the year shows the regional economy returning to a healthier state, as well as funders returning to the acquisitions market.
Martin Hulls, partner and head of corporate at Ward Hadaway, said: “There is no doubt from our perspective that 2013 has been the year that the North East deals market returned to something approaching normality.
“Since the financial crisis really hit in 2008, transactions have been fairly few and far between. However, during the past year there has been a marked upturn in deal numbers and in transactions of all types.
“I think this is due to a combination of factors: investors with funds are looking for good investments; pent-up demand from people looking to sell their businesses; companies in a number of sectors are now doing pretty well since the recession and the general economic outlook has improved.”
Trends in the North East deals market over the past year included the return of private equity firms to the region in greater numbers, backing businesses in a range of industries.
Ward Hadaway worked on one of the largest such deals in the North East, advising global specialist recruitment company Nigel Frank International on a £22m investment in the business by ISIS Equity Partners and HSBC Bank plc in July.
It also advised precision engineering company Express Engineering in October on an investment by private equity company LDC.
The law firm likewise worked on the other side of private equity deals during the year, advising investors including Total Capital Partners on its backing of the management buy-out of supply chain management company Meter Provida Ltd and Growth Capital Partners on the secondary buy-out of Fishawack.
Other work included advising Santander and Barclays on funding for acquisitions.
Hulls added: “As well as demonstrating increased appetite from private equity houses for investing in North East companies, the deals involving Nigel Frank International and Express Engineering typify another key characteristic of 2013 transactions; both are substantial companies operating in niche growing sectors.
“Well-run, well-managed niche businesses, particularly those in growth industries, are very attractive to external investors and banks and the North East does very well in this regard.”
Throughout 2013, overseas buyers were also involved in a number of transactions, including the sale of Northumberland fishing tackle manufacturer Hardy & Greys to US group Pure Fishing, Inc.
Flotations likewise returned to the North East deals scene, with Ward Hadaway advising Applied Graphene Materials plc, for example, on its Alternative Investment Market flotation in November.