M&A activity driven by government-related entities (GREs) and market consolidations
The Middle East is predominantly a buy-side market given its cash-rich nature. GREs have been a key driver of deal flow over the past 24 months. Largely led by the transformation of national oil companies ARAMCO and ADNOC, and by the investment strategies of ADQ and PIF, GREs contributed to 62% of deal value in 2020.
There has also been a general trend toward increased privatization, especially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), related to key infrastructure assets, including electricity, aviation, water, customs, staples and housing.
MENA executives find that the current circumstances present a unique time for M&A, with several sectors ripe for consolidation. Domestic private equity (PE) investment has been relatively low in recent years, partly due to challenges in providing reasonable internal rates of return (IRRs) on investments made in the past, and partly as a result of the adverse impact from the news surrounding Abraaj Group. Domestic PE funds are currently more focused on divestments. Nevertheless, there is still a pipeline of interesting mid-market opportunities, largely driven by sellers’ needs to raise capital.
According to the latest results from the EY Global Capital Confidence Barometer, 81% of MENA respondents expect the Middle East to be preferred investment destination that will generate the most growth and opportunities for their company in the next three years.