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Q1 takeovers worth nearly €800m but figures down 14pc on last year

COMPANIES worth almost €800m were bought or sold by Irish businesses in the first three months of the year, according to new research from NCB Stockbrokers.

The €792m value of deals is down 14pc from €922m in the same period in 2011.

The number of deals completed has held up better -- when the 51 transactions recorded in the first quarter of 2012 were broadly in line with the average deal flow of 55 deals per quarter recorded last year, according to new research from NCB Stockbrokers.

NCB described deal flow as "reasonably good with a solid level of deal volume".

Even so, the latest tally means the value of deals is down a whopping 76pc compared to the final quarter of 2011 -- when deals worth over €3bn were announced.

The 2011 statistics were boosted by a small number of big ticket transactions including the €1.123bn purchase by US investors of a 35pc stake in Bank of Ireland and Liberty Mutual teaming up with IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, to take over Quinn Direct for €200m.

The NCB statistics exclude €5.47bn paid for Dublin-based aircraft leasing giant RBS Aviation Capital by Japanese bank Sumitomo Mitsui because the parent company of neither the buyer or the business sold is Irish.

The biggest deal of the quarter is Elan's sale of 76pc of its shareholding in drug maker Alkermes for €286m.


Other big deals include Ardagh Glass paying €85m for French packaging firm Boxal Group, and Blackstone GSO's €73m takeover of Irish investment firm Harbourmaster.

The biggest driver of deal flow continues to be Irish companies making acquisitions abroad.

There were 19 such deals in the first three months of the year -- with the likes of Ardagh Glass, Smurfit Kappa and DCC all doing deals in less recession battered economies.

The Q1 statistics do not include a tally for prolific deal-maker CRH.

CRH closed 22 takeovers in the last three months of 2011 but has yet to announce its deal list for this year.

Such trade deals are expected to dominate deal flow for the rest of the year, according to Jonathan Simmons, director of NCB Corporate Finance.

He says deals relating to bank lenders, in particular retail bank lenders, will pick up as the year goes on.

Irish Independent