Opportunities in a time of turmoil

Patrick Abel, corporate finance partner at Hart Shaw
Patrick Abel, corporate finance partner at Hart Shaw
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Uncertainty seems to be the phrase being banded around in the media and within the business community at present.

The uncertainty being generated by media speculation over a possible new global recession caused by the lack of global liquidity, deflation, low oil prices and the UK referendum on whether to remain within the EU.

Having been through various recessions over the years, including leaving school at a time when the steel and coal industries were in crisis during the mid-80s, the one thing that I have learnt is that there are more opportunities in times of turmoil than in a stable market!

Lack of confidence in the business community does lead to projects being put on hold or cancelled, with the knock-on effects being reductions in capital expenditure, job losses, less money going into the local and national economy as people reduce spending for fear of what might be around the corner.

Locally, we are seeing engineering companies aligned to oil exploration really struggling, however, there is still a need to pump oil and therefore companies exposed to production are less exposed.

Activity in defence and aerospace is still holding up well and resulting in some engineering firms faring better than others.

Construction is on an upward trajectory and we have several clients in that sector that have full order books, their biggest issue is keeping up with demand.

At Hart Shaw Corporate Finance we have enjoyed a sustained period of deal activity in the past 18 months.

This is partially driven by management teams getting the opportunity to acquire the business they work in, because they are deemed non-core to groups, or buying from owner-managers who have now reached or passed retirement age.

In many cases the owners missed the opportunity to cash-in pre-2007, when deal prices were excessive, because of the seemingly never ending growth opportunities.

Pricing of deals is now more realistic than 2007 but conditions are better than they have been for some time.

Private equity and bank-funded deals are now firmly back on the agenda.

Both private equity and corporate groups are sitting on significant volumes of cash and they need to deploy resources and acquire businesses in order to generate shareholder returns.

No-one knows what is around the corner, but doing nothing is probably not the best strategy to adopt.

Standing still can result in ground being lost to the competition!