China became the largest foreign investor across emerging Europe* in 2017, according to the “Emerging Europe M&A report 2017/2018” published by CMS in cooperation with EMIS. China increased the value of its investments into the region by 78% to €7.7bn, after a 96% rise in 2016. The US remained the busiest investor by number of deals with 92 transactions in 2017. These results may be a sign of things to come for the region as domestic investment continued to dominate activity: Russian investors clocked up 603 deals worth a value of €22.5bn; Polish investors negotiated 166 deals worth €4.3bn.
Overall, emerging Europe enjoyed another solid year for M&A activity and closed 2017 with 2,113 deals across the region - up 6% compared to 2016. Deal value came in at €71.5bn, a modest decline from 2016 but well ahead of the 2014 and 2015 levels, CMS says.
Helen Rodwell, Partner, CEE Corporate Practice, CMS: “Despite the uncertainties around global politics, confidence picked up in the second half of the year. This resulted in a healthy flow of transactions with increasing interest from foreign investors. This was particularly true of China, and shows that the region will play an important role in its Belt and Road initiative to improve infrastructure within key trading partners. We are already witnessing a healthy pipeline of activity at the start of 2018 with all signs pointing to another good year for M&A activity in the region.”
A number of star performers emerged in 2017 according to the report. There was a welcome sign of revival in Ukraine, despite tensions in the east of the country, reflected in its 67% increase in M&A activity, while Hungary experienced the highest growth (126%) in total deal value to €2.7 bn. As the largest country in the region, Russia experienced the highest levels of M&A activity in 2017 with 671 deals worth €36.7bn. Romania saw a healthy uptick in M&A activity, with a 13% increase in deal volume and 64% increase in value. Robust economic growth in Poland has resulted in a strong transactions market with a 3% increase in deal volume to 288.
Radivoje Petrikić, Partner, CEE Corporate Practice, CMS: “With economic growth outpacing all major economies, a favourable environment for foreign investment and EU financing, and an increasingly affluent population of more than 100m people CEE is an attractive market in its own right. The flow of deals shows that CEE remains a key target for international investors, whether they want to tap its markets directly or use them to produce goods for export.”
Across the region, the most active sector was Real Estate & Construction, with a total of 390 deals worth €16.9bn, followed by Manufacturing, and then Technology. Poland was most active market for new stock exchange listings with IPOs worth close to €1.8bn in total.
Stefan Stoyanov, Head of M&A Database, EMIS: “We are generally optimistic that 2018 will be better for M&A. Economic growth in CEE/SEE, coupled with the still cheap financing, make it a desirable investment destination, also given the fewer unknowns at the start of the year as compared to 2017. In addition, we expect that tax and regulatory uncertainty overseas in the U.S. will force companies there to be more cautious about domestic deals and to take a closer look at Europe instead. Lastly, China’s ranking as a top investor in CEE/SEE last year could hint at future things to come”.
*The “Emerging Europe M&A Report 2017/2018” shows trends in 15 emerging CEE/SEE countries - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine - based on EMIS M&A data for 2012-2017, combined with commentary, insights and forecasts for 2018 provided by CMS. For more information, please see: https://cms.law/en/GBR/Publication/Emerging-Europe-M-A-Report-2017-18