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Editorial

M&A activity significantly increased in 2014, with deals worth almost $3.5 trillion announced over the year. However, this increase did not entirely match up with the number of completed deals as – at the time of writing – four of the fifteen largest deals announced in 2014 had yet to be finalised.

Despite the optimism, it was also a year of near misses, with around a third of all deals announced in Europe collapsing. Among the casualties were Pfizer’s £53bn approach to AstraZeneca, AbbVie’s £32bn takeover of Shire, and Carillion’s pursuit of Balfour Beatty.

FIRMS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Howard Kennedy

Our real estate expertise is wide ranging.  We advise on all commercial and residential real estate issues, including planning, construction, tax, finance, investment, portfolio management, plot sales, litigation and transactional. Our client base is diverse range of FTSE 100 companies, high-street retail chains, investors, property entrepreneurs, individual property buyers, restaurant and leisure entities – anyone who is involved in buying or selling real estate. One principle guides all of our client relationships: our commitment to delivering a responsive, cost effective and commercially focused service. Clients include: Berkeley Group, Carluccio’s, Cartier, Galliard Homes, KFC, Mothercare, Pizza Hut and Sunglass Hut.

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The telecoms, media, technology and healthcare sectors remained particularly buoyant, while the slump in commodity prices served to galvanize the energy sector, most notably with Shell’s bid for BG Group.

It was a tale of two halves for capital markets in 2014. The first six months of the year saw continued growth in activity, following on from a strong 2013. However, the second half of the year, particularly the final quarter, was patchier as the uncertainty around the 2015 UK general election began to weigh and the price of oil collapsed. Of the high-profile floats in 2014, both the accelerated £1.4bn IPO by AA and the £1.2bn flotation by AO World stood out for their high valuations and subsequent share price slumps. The AIM market remained buoyant, despite the fall in activity in the energy and resources sector. It saw a large number of IPOs pricing at the top end of the market, including online fashion retailer Boohoo.com’s £240m float and Hurricane Energy’s £272m offering.

There continues to be a great deal of public and political scrutiny surrounding corporate tax and the tax affairs of multinationals in general. Tax evasion scandals remained headline news in 2014, as they have been for the past three to four years. This has shaped the way tax advice is given by lawyers, who are now finding that any tax-related matters are becoming high-priority issues for boardrooms across the UK and abroad. It has also resulted in increased risk aversion by clients, meaning less tax planning work, and more advice on how a given tax structure may be perceived politically. Transactions dropped off in the second half of the year, as the US government took measures to stop tax inversions from the US into lower tax jurisdictions.

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