The food and beverage manufacturing sector accounted for 15.4% of very large deals in the UK last year, making it more active than any other sector, according to information services company Experian.
Among the biggest food and beverage deals was Diageo Plc’s purchase of a £1.3bn (€1.6bn) stake in Indian drinks firm United Spirits Ltd, and China’s Bright Foods’ acquisition of the British Weetabix brand for £1.2bn (about €1.47bn).
Overall, M&A activity in the UK was down 3%, although the number of very large deals – defined as those worth over a billion pounds – was up 15%, from 34 in 2011 to 39 in 2012. The UK has also fared better than the rest of Europe, which saw a 10.2% fall in the number of deals last year.
Business development manager at Experian UK and Ireland Wendy Driver said:“Despite the challenges faced by the Eurozone crisis, the UK has proven to be one of the most attractive markets in what has been a subdued year for mergers and acquisitions globally.
“The quality of UK businesses and assets, as well as favourable interest rates, has been consistently attractive to overseas investors which is helping to keep mergers and acquisitions activity buoyant and may serve to boost confidence further."
Last year was a boom year for Northern Ireland, Experian said, where deal volume was up by more than a third (36.8%) compared to 2011. Scotland was another bright spot, with a 10.5% increase in activity, while the South West of England saw a 7.3% increase.
The UK market also compared favourably to other regions. In the United States, M&A activity was down 5%, while the volume of Asia-Pacific deals fell 15.2%.
The total number of mergers, acquisitions, flotations, rights issues and placements announced in the UK across sectors last year was 4,543. While that number represents a decline in activity compared to the previous year, the total value of deals increased 4.8% from £231bn in 2011 to £242bn in 2012.