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Further signs of business-sales resurgence both sides of Atlantic

Boots pharmacy drugstore healthcare retail

Further evidence of a rebound in the business-sales market has emerged from the latest quarterly survey.

A report published by data services firm Experian last month revealed that the number of UK 'mega deals' - transactions of more than £1bn - made in 2012 reached its highest point since 2009. 

And observations reported by several brokers participating in the latest quarterly survey have added to the sense of a recovering - albeit slowly - marketplace in both the UK and US.

"We've experienced a dramatic increase in closings in the third and fourth quarter of 2012, making up for 2010 and 2011, with high expectations for 2013," wrote one broker.


Joe Goldberg of Sunbelt Business Brokers in Tarzana, California had also noticed an upturn: "Activity is slowly bouncing back," he reported. "We've had more activity in the last six months than the previous six." 

However, not all US-based professional intermediaries were so bullish. One broker with 40 years' experience in the field described "the so-called rebound in the USA" a "joke, media hype. Business owners are in real trouble."Type Title Here

Overall activity in the US was actually down 5% and values by 6.4% in 2012.


The disparity between anecdotal evidence from US brokers and these figures could be due to a split similar to one identified in the UK market. While UK mega deals occurred mostly between large corporations, mergers and acquisitions in the domestic mid-market - characterised as involving larger than SMEs but smaller than exchange-listed giants - were down. 

Although the larger agreements made in 2012 offset the mid-market dip, this may go some way to confirming fears expressed by business sellers in the survey, 78% of whom believe national economic policy serves the interest of big businesses rather than the small businesses which employ almost half of the workforce.

Custom manufacturing      

The rest of Europe saw a 10.2% fall in deals volume, along with a 10.5% drop in value. Deals backed by mezzanine funds were on the rise, up from seven in 2011 to 12 last year.

However, Experian showed a year-on-year drop in venture capital funding from 651 to 595, which it put down to a slowdown in growth rates. 

A total of 39 UK mega deals were concluded in 2012, five more than in 2011, for a combined total of £128bn.

The majority of deals took place across borders, such as Chinese conglomerate Bright Foods purchasing a controlling interest in Weetabix, and a £4.6bn investment in Alliance Boots by American drugstore chain Walgreen Co.

UK firms were involved in 47.3% of all transactions made across Europe, contributing 42% of the value of all deals. 

Struggling sectors: brokers frequently cited these business types as currently difficult to sell

  • "Medicare-dependent or other government-dependant"[businesses]  (US)
  • "High-priced hair salons" 
  • "Travel and other expensive forms of entertainment"
  • "'Made to order' dining establishments"
  • Retail ("being threatened by big-box competitors")
  • "I specialize in golf courses and these industries have been hard hit. Buyers are few and far between"
  • "Free-standing restaurants are bad investments as their margins are razor thin"

Sectors to watch: brokers frequently cited businesses in the following industries as popular among buyers 

  • Senior care, including home care
  • Energy in general and green energy in particular
  • Discount retail
  • Second-hand/consignment retail
  • Non-discretionary retail and services (because "people still have to eat, wear clothes, and let off steam")
  • Maintenance and repair businesses ("because people are keeping things longer")

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