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The offshore region typically enjoys a late-year surge, with companies that have been on the side-lines watching developments keen to make their move before the year is out. However, 2018 saw a quieter few final months. The escalating price of companies had done little to dampen the enthusiasm for M&A earlier in the year but the late year stock market sell off appears to have instigated a slow down.
As a result, deal volume for the offshore region is down 5% this year, but still saw 2,781 deals, which is higher than every year prior to 2015 and ranks the offshore region ahead of such European powerhouses as Spain and the Netherlands. The total amount spent on offshore companies, was USD 344 billion, over USD 100 billion more than in 2017 and the second highest annual figure on record. The average deal size was USD 124 million, significantly higher than any other world region.
The number of capital increases (share issues or a hike in the par value of capital stock) plummeted in the second half of the year with the void filled by out-and-out acquisitions. These types of deals made up nearly half of all offshore M&A activity since July. Investing companies are no longer content to just take a seat on the board, but want full control of an asset in order to gain a competitive advantage over rivals.
Over the course of the year, investors from almost 60 countries across the world have targeted offshore companies. Despite respective local concerns in relation to overseas investment and Brexit, China and the UK continue to be major investors into the region. Significant deal value has also come from the G7 group of countries.
The Finance & Insurance sector alone accounted for a third of all 2018 offshore activity. Low interest rates, regulatory pressure and technology investment have hurt the basic business model of many finance and insurance firms. They need improved synergies between departments and greater scale to respond; M&A is the obvious solution.
The Financial Services industry is also perhaps the sector most affected by technological developments, and there is a real sense that companies that fall behind in developing and using technology now will find it difficult to keep up. Every aspect of the business, from customer experience interfaces to crucial back-office IT systems can benefit from the right technology investment.
Bermuda recorded a total of 307 deals in 2018, a decline from the previous year as local activity in the mining and energy supply sectors slowed. However, deal values rose sharply as Bermuda’s insurance market heated up thanks to intense market competition.
BVI reported a total of 504 deals in 2018, showing only a marginal dip in activity overall. The BVI has seen a strong 25% increase in the value of local deals, including the billion-dollar acquisitions of several internet service companies.
The Cayman Islands reported only a marginal dip in deal activity, with a total of 867 deals in 2018. Construction companies, electronics manufacturers and a number of major investments by tech firms were all standouts in a busy year.
The Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Isle of Man and Jersey continue to show a preference for domestic M&A, interspersed with high profile and high value international deals. The three jurisdictions recorded 324 deals overall in 2018.
Hong Kong is the only of our offshore territories to report higher levels of deal activity in 2018. The jurisdiction continues to provide a vital point within Asia and remains a popular listing destination. Large deals have been announced in infrastructure and real estate while China’s technology giants have also been active in the jurisdiction.
In the Seychelles, financial services and property investment dominate, as they do in Mauritius which has also witnessed a number of large transactions in the Energy sector.
The offshore region works as a place for transactions to smoothly occur and consequently sees a lot of activity as an efficient base for an acquisition or investment to be made from. Outbound activity volume coming out the region continues to pull away from the amount of inbound action as offshore companies increasingly feature as part of the global M&A market.
With 3,532 of these outbound deals announced over 2018, that’s 750 more than the total number of offshore firms that were the target of a transaction and the gap has been widening now for three years in a row. Total value was USD 340 billion, which included 66 deals worth more than USD 1 billion each.
The targets of these acquisitive offshore companies were spread across 93 different countries, with China, the USA and the UK being popular targets. Much of Western Europe is strongly represented and there were several large individual deals targeting the Indian subcontinent.
Investor confidence, large pools of liquidity, strong valuations and low interest rates have offset recent stock market turbulence, creating a very strong year for Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) in the offshore region. In total, 349 companies spread over 60 different industries announced their intention to go to market, a new annual record.
Top sectors for announced offshore IPOs were information service activities and (online) publishing activities, both taking advantage of the interest in the field and the potential for swift growth. There was also a lot of action from wholesale traders, tapping the public markets for extra working capital, and construction companies, launching IPOs in order to retire debt and to invest in ongoing projects.