Mark Casci: Deal activity is at a 10 year high, confidence is on the up and the YP is changing

After what was increasingly looking like an endless winter, the temperature is starting to rise.

London Stock Exchange - Phil Toscano/PA Wire

However, despite several weeks of inclement weather, the scene on the merger and acquisition front has been red hot and confidence seems to be improving.

Figures this week from professional services giants EY and Deloitte made for welcome reading after months of political and economic uncertainty slowly seems to be melting like the highly disruptive snowfall.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

EY yesterday published data showing that the UK has chalked up its strongest first quarter for mergers and acquisitions in a decade. Deals worth £85bn were signed off between January and March, with telecoms, automobile and healthcare proving the hottest sectors for transactions.

Will Brexit help or hinder the Yorkshire economy?

The result comfortably outstrips the final three months of last year when firms sealed 586 deals, worth £36bn.

While the figures were impressive, I was not surprised in the least to see that our nation’s M&A activity had reached a 10-year high.

The Yorkshire Post’s business pages have been bursting with stories of deals in recent weeks, with last week’s announcement that NG Bailey is to acquire Wakefield’s Freedom Group a notable example of the confidence pervading the region’s companies.

On a national level, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, GKN and Melrose, and UBM and Informa all announced tie-ups between January and March.

David Hurcomb, Chief Executive NG Bailey, Ilkley. 4 April 2011. Picture Bruce Rollinson

The news came on the same day that Deloitte published its latest CFO study showing that, for the first time in nearly two years, Brexit was no longer the principal concern among business leaders.

Concerns over Britain’s contentious departure from the European Union have now fallen behind the general malaise of the wider economy which continues to lag behind the growth seen in other major developed economies. The agreement for a transition deal which will take the negotiating period for Britain’s EU exit beyond the ludicrously short two years laid out by Article 50 has given the country much needed breathing space and given company bosses the confidence to push ahead with growth plans.

The transition period hopefully will mean that the substance of the circumstances surrounding Brexit and what shape it will take is now wrestled away from the ill-informed and extremist positions adopted by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage whose lack of understanding as to how we trade and do business as a nation has been given far too much attention in recent months.

The risible notion of a complete break from the European Union seems to have been rightly abandoned and, hopefully, the rest of the process can be overseen by the grown-ups.

Confidence is rising in Sheffield Picture: Andrew Roe

And so, it is with this new sense of hope and confidence that I am able to share with you all some exciting news about some big changes coming your way next week.

For the first time in more than a decade we are undertaking a significant redesign of our two set piece business supplements which we run on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Our commitment to providing Yorkshire’s business community with the award-winning coverage we have become synonymous with will remain.

However, from next Tuesday, you will see a refreshed design and thought pieces from business leaders around the region.

In addition, next month will see the return of our prestigious Vision magazine. We will be taking a far more agenda-setting position with this magazine and distributing copes of it around Europe as we do our best to sell Yorkshire business to the world.

With such rising levels of confidence in our businesses, the time could not be better to match it with journalism that is bold, fearless and modern.

Exciting times lie ahead.

Will Brexit help or hinder the Yorkshire economy?
David Hurcomb, Chief Executive NG Bailey, Ilkley. 4 April 2011. Picture Bruce Rollinson
Confidence is rising in Sheffield Picture: Andrew Roe