Home 5 News 5 Brexit


Oct 31, 2016

‘Brexit means Brexit’ – what does that even mean?

It has now been 18 weeks since the Brexit vote and still the jury is out. Is this good news or bad for Britain and its economy? Without any steer from the Government how can we tell what is or is not going to happen? And crucially for Frazer Hall, what will be the impact on mergers and acquisitions in the coming months?

The uncertainty does not help, even for firms who trade only in the UK and are not influenced by decisions in Europe. On a recent sale mandate, the CFO of an acquisitive listed company informed us that they are working through their deal pipeline, but not taking on any prospective acquisitions until the new year, by which time they hope to have greater visibility of Brexit’s impact – and this is not an uncommon theme, across M&A, but also on other capital decisions. And according to the Financial Times this is already one of the worst mergers and acquisitions markets for years. Reuters have said that in the first 11 weeks since Brexit, deals fell from 1060 in the corresponding period last year to 707 this year.

That said, we are writing this blog on the day of completing the sale of a small metal working business and a week ago, we completed on the acquisition of a sports nutrition products business – we have completed eight deals in as many months.

There is undeniably uncertainty about the post Brexit economy. The pound is currently valued at €1.11 against the Euro, from a high of €1.5220 in February 2007. And against the dollar the pound is $1.22 – its recent highest point was $2.07 in October 2007. It has actually lost about one-fifth of its value since the referendum.

However, the UK has not fallen back into recession; on 27 October the Office for National Statistics estimated that the economy grew by 0.5% in the third quarter of the year. Considering the forecast had been for 0.1%, this is a big improvement and this growth means that at its next interest rate meeting the Bank of England will probably not cut the base rate from 0.25%.

Furthermore, without the constraints of European trade agreements, Britain will be freer to make its own decisions. Watching as the recent Canadian free-trade agreement teeters on the edge of collapse due to the tiny region of Wallonia who don’t feel the agreement is in their interests, there is certainly a feeling that the EU can be a hindrance to trade and that not being part of the EU trading pact could be a good thing for Britain. The recent news from Nissan is very encouraging. And there seem to be assurances that this will apply to the automotive trade as a whole. City AM – a free, business focused newspaper reported that in the month following Brexit, 60 deals were signed and that after Brexit the activity coming from Asia, the Americas and the Middle East had certainly been stimulated.

The conclusion has to be that no one yet knows how Brexit is going to work out for Britain (or Europe) but as the dust settles, activity continues, firms get used to the new conditions and this situation becomes the new normal that everyone works with. Certainly the $24 billion deal by the Japanese firm SoftBank for Apple chip maker ARM Holdings indicates according to Theresa May that “Britain is open for business”. Let’s see.