Deal-makers more optimistic on this side of Pennines

Lizzie Murphy

YORKSHIRE’S deal-makers have a more bullish view of the year ahead than their counterparts across the Pennines, according to business advisor Deloitte.

Its annual survey of the northern deals market showed that 47 per cent of respondents in the region predict that conditions will improve over the course of 2010, compared to just 18 per cent in the North West.

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Significantly more Yorkshire respondents expected a rise in an average deal value this year, and 74 per cent of dealmakers in the region expect the number of transactions reaching completion to rise; almost three times the 24 per cent total of their colleagues in the North West.

The survey of over 100 leading bankers, corporate financiers and lawyers in the Northern private equity market showed that 97 per cent of dealmakers predict that prices paid for businesses will remain stable or rise over the coming 12 months and not one of those interviewed expect deal volumes to fall.

Martin Jenkins, head of corporate finance at Deloitte in Leeds, said: “The consensus is that we have now bottomed out in terms of deal values, liquidity and the sheer difficulty of doing deals, but that isn’t to say that dealmakers are seeing green shoots just yet. The optimism is cautious and there won’t be a sudden ‘bounce back’ this year.”

He added: “The results show that most in the market feel that we are bumping along the bottom, and the market should start climbing again in 2011.”

More than half (56 per cent) of those who took part in the survey predicted that recovery would take at least 18 months.

The survey also revealed that the majority of deals in 2010, just as in the past year, look likely to involve family-owned and private businesses.

Last year only two per cent of deals involved businesses in administration, the same as in 2008, although 15 per cent had experienced a level of distress.

Mr Jenkins added: “Overall the market is expecting more transactions, and anticipates that they will be bigger deals this year after a very difficult period last year. This is obviously welcome, but we are looking at some years before we return to the activity levels seen in 2006 and 2007.”

The total value of private equity-backed buyouts in Yorkshire and Humber fell by 78 per cent to 305.4m in 2009, from 1.4bn in 2008, according to the Centre for Management Buyout Research, sponsored by Barclays Private Equity. However, the fourth quarter of 2009 saw a 125 per cent increase in the region to 155m, up from 69m in the third quarter.