Investing in CEE: Inbound M&A report 2022/2023

The beginning of 2022 signalled to what was to be a turbulent year for both European and global market, as Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. Trends that were already in play in 2021, rising inflation and higher borrowing costs, were greatly amplified. The war unleashed supply shocks, notably in the wholesale gas market.

Meanwhile, the imposition of economic sanctions against Russia further complicated the dealmaking landscape. Against this backdrop, supply-chain bottlenecks and labour shortages, a legacy of the pandemic, continued to dampen growth. 

Dealmaking conditions could scarcely have been more challenging. Yet, as our report reveals, the impact on M&A activity in the CEE region was much less pronounced than many initially feared. In fact – and with the exception of 2021, a somewhat anomalous record-year for M&A – deal volumes and aggregate deal value in 2022 both reached new highs in CEE.

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Key findings

  • Overall, CEE registred 846 transactions worth €39.2bn in aggregate.
  • The number of transactions recorded in CEE in 2022 is higher than any annual total besides that posted in 2021, just eclipsing 2016’s €38.6bn.
  • CEE was not alone in facing M&A headwinds – all parts of the world, without exception, were affected, even the advanced economies of Western Europe and North America both suffered sharper year-on-year declines in volume and value.
  • CEE also remained a strong draw for international investment. The overall proportion of M&A transactions in the region involving cross-border sponsors rose to 64% in 2022, up four percentage points from the year before and easily the highest proportion on recent record dating back to 2015.
  • The private equity space activity softened after 2021’s record-breaking dealmaking deluge, with buyout volume down 31% year on year. Value fell even further, by 66%, with buyouts totalling €3.4bn in 2022 compared to €9.9bn the year before.
  • Buyout volume in 2022 held up remarkably well by historical standards. The number of private equity buyouts in 2022 remains one of the highest on record for CEE, with a total of 97 deals, easily eclipsing any annual sum between 2015-2020. 

The M&A market in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic recorded a total of 81 M&A deals in 2022 with a declared value of €702m. The largest of these – and the CEE region’s fifth-biggest private equity deal of the year – was a €220m funding round for online grocer Rohlik Group. Among the various investors, led by Belgian firm Sofina, was the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Including this transaction, four of the five largest private equity-related deals struck in the Czech Republic fell in the technology sector. 

Banking was another sector that saw significant activity in 2022. Much of this was a direct consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Deals of note included the acquisition of Russian-owned Expobank CZ by the Czech Republic’s Banka CREDITAS. The year 2022 also saw the liquidation of the banking operations of Russia-backed Sberbank CZ following the revocation of its licence by the CzechNational Bank. Commercial bank Ceska Sporitelna acquired Sberbank CZ’s local loan portfolio in adeal worth €135m, making it the second-largest transaction in the Czech Republic last year.

Looking ahead, manufacturing, automotive and healthcare are sectors to watch in 2023. “We have local companies with good infrastructure in terms of manufacturing capacity and people, but their customer base is underperforming. This is
an opportunity for strategic investors to realise synergies with deals that focus on the asset rather than buying the current business,” says Lukáš Hruboň, Head of M&A at Mazars in the Czech Republic. “The healthcare industry also remains attractive because it is less exposed to external shocks.” The Czech National Bank has forecast that national GDP will contract by 0.7% in 2023 before expanding by 2.5% in 2024.

Outlook for the coming months

The region continues to offer unprecedented consolidation opportunities in the mid-market space in industries ranging from healthcare and tourism (sometimes together) to manufacturing and technology.

2023 will for sure be a challenging year. But set against this are the quality of the region’s businesses, the creativity of dealmakers and the continuing support of the EU’s Resilience and Recovery Facility, which is worth more than €100bn to the 12 CEE countries that are EU members. This, and the CEE region’s sound fundamentals, suggests there are good reasons to be relatively optimistic about the year ahead.

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