Baltic M&A stands firm under challenging dealmaking conditions
The Baltic M&A market recorded a total of 117 M&A transactions worth €2.2bn in 2022, according to the latest report published by Ellex in association with Mergermarket.
While this was a fall from the highs of 2021 – where 144 deals worth €2.4bn represented the best year on Mergermarket record for M&A in the region – these figures still represent the second-highest deal volume and third-highest aggregate value in the past decade.
Risto Vahimets, partner and head of transactions at Ellex in Estonia, commented: “The year started phenomenally well, continuing the trend from 2021. Then the invasion of Ukraine happened, and many of the deals ceased; it was an alarming time. Then Ukraine started moving in a positive direction and, from early June, we’ve been safer. Investors’ concerns are largely macroeconomic, relating to inflation and the economic downturn, as they are in the rest of Europe. Things have been slower than in 2021 – a record year – with investors anticipating lower valuations in the coming period. But overall, 2022 was not a bad year at all.”
Overall declared deal value in 2022 was boosted by the two largest deals in the Baltics – the fund-raising round by ride-hailing app developer Bolt Technology, and the sale of a stake in Lithuanian bank Nord/LB Lietuva – accounted for more than two-fifths of the total (€957m combined).
Of the 117 deals announced in the Baltics in 2022, 59% (69) came in H1, reflecting both the completion of transactions lined up during the 2021 boom and growing macroeconomic pressures in the latter half of the year.
As in 2021, inbound deals contributed the lion’s share of aggregate value in the Baltics in 2022 at 78%, down slightly from 85% in 2021. Between 2012-22, inbound deals contributed an average of 63% of the total declared value, and only in 2012-14 did aggregate domestic transaction value outweigh that of inbound deals.
Rūta Armonė, partner and co-head of Corporate and M&A practice at Ellex in Lithuania explained: “The proportion of foreign investors in the market is a very good sign – we’re able to reach them and convince them that the environment is safe. Geopolitically, we are stable. We can take the leading position in the European technology sector. I think we will achieve very, very good results over the next five, ten years.”
While foreign investment has been running high in the Baltics, the local capital has not been idle. In 2022, 53% of all deals announced in the Baltics were domestic, up one percentage point compared to the year before.
Raimonds Slaidiņš, senior partner and head of Corporate and M&A practice at Ellex in Latvia added: “Restructurings are an active field for us right now. We see companies that are already invested here looking for other opportunities to expand their projects in the Baltics. And we have companies from Estonia and Lithuania doing transactions in Latvia. In the Baltics in general we continually have a good pipeline of work.”
In terms of sectors, technology M&A continued to be the defining feature of the Baltic market, with global PE players keen to snap up high-calibre assets. TMT deals contributed 33% of all M&A by volume in the region during the period, up 14 percentage points in 2019/20. The industry’s contribution in value terms was even more notable, with the sector accounting for 51% of aggregate deal value in the Baltics in 2021/22, up 19 percentage points from its share in 2019/20. This was thanks in large part to the previously mentioned €628m Bolt Technology deal and bolstered by the five other TMT deals in the overall Baltic top-10 for 2022.
Looking ahead, Sven Papp, partner, and co-head of transactions at Ellex in Estonia believes 2023 will be a year of challenges, as well as opportunities, for the region. “Continuously high energy prices and the increasing cost of capital will continue to contribute to even higher production costs, which will be impossible to pass over to the consumers who are already suffering from high inflation, resulting in lower consumer confidence. But challenges do also create new opportunities, and we may witness more pronounced M&A activity also in the ‘old industries’, possibly also some distressed asset sales,” he said.
Ellex brings together the region’s three strongest and most highly ranked law firms from each of the Baltic states – Ellex Raidla in Estonia, Ellex Klavins in Latvia, and Ellex Valiunas in Lithuania. Ellex has the largest and the most recognized Corporate and M&A team in the Baltics, leading for several years in succession by the value and number of transactions in Central and Eastern Europe. The most recent acknowledgments were being awarded as the Baltic Law Firm of the year 2022 by IFLR Europe Awards and the Northern European Law Firm of the year 2022 by The Lawyer.
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