M&A activity for 2021 - strong year predicted

Our 2021 M&A outlook surveyed many of Ireland’s leading executives and M&A advisers for their insights on trends for the year ahead. The results show that a significant majority (95%) of respondents expect Irish M&A activity for 2021 to be at or above 2020 levels, a 5% increase in confidence from last year, despite an extraordinarily challenging economic environment.

The appetite for pursuing M&A activity in Ireland in 2021 is also very strong, with 86% of respondents intending to pursue M&A opportunities this year. This activity will be enabled by readily available funding from private equity and corporates, as well as the quality of assets available in Ireland. 

COVID impact

Unsurprisingly, the global pandemic disrupted the process of deal making in 2020 with respondents citing relationship building as the most challenging element of M&A activity during 2020, followed by deal origination and approach to valuation. With interactions between buyers and sellers limited to online, more innovative ways of doing deals arose in 2020 to establish personal connections, conduct due diligence and manage valuation discussions.

The impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic may have also triggered a shift in the sentiment of respondents, with more than half (55%) predicting 2021 to be a buyers’ rather than a sellers’ market (25%), and the remainder being neutral. The economic upheaval over the last 10 months will likely create opportunities for buyers, however, given the uneven impact of COVID-19 and Brexit, this is likely to vary significantly by sector.  The significant amounts of capital available to deploy suggests desirable companies will continue to attract strong interest in 2021.

Mark Collins

‘While challenges remain and the human impact of COVID-19 is far from over, we agree with our survey respondents that 2021 looks like being a busy year for M&A, building on the deal momentum in the second half of 2020.

Mark Collins

Partner & Head of Deal Advisory

Executives shaking hands

Deal volumes

It is not surprising that 95% of respondents expect 2021 deal volumes to remain at or above 2020 levels. The challenges of 2020 caused many businesses and investors to focus on existing operations. A restoration of confidence and re-emphasis on M&A strategy is expected to drive greater M&A activity in 2021.

deal volumes graph

Pursuing M&A

In a positive outlook for deal activity, 86% of respondents intend to pursue M&A opportunities this year. Ireland remains a location for quality assets, with readily available funding from private equity and corporates alike.

Pursuing M&A graph

Buyers' market

In a shift from prior years, most respondents think 2021 will be a buyers’ market. Given the uneven impact of COVID-19 and Brexit the market sentiment is likely to vary significantly by sector.

Buyers/sellers graph

2021 – Sector Activity

Technology, Healthcare and Retail are expected to be the most active sectors in 2021. Drivers of activity will vary greatly from growth to distress, depending on the ability to demonstrate resilience, to adapt and to create opportunity.

Sector activity
Forest of spruce trees


A strong majority of survey respondents said they will factor sustainability into their 2021 M&A strategies, a notable increase from 67% in 2020. This demonstrates the significant and growing influence that the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) agenda is having on corporate decision-making in Ireland, and continued commitment to the green agenda despite current economic challenges. Increasing legislative and regulatory focus both nationally and globally on sustainability issues will likely result in continued movement of capital flows towards green investments.  

86% of M&A leaders will factor sustainability 
into their 2021
M&A strategies
David O'Kelly

Our survey highlights that dealmakers continue to invest in innovation and seek to adapt their businesses. This year, our respondents forecast that technology will be the most active sector and that M&A will be used as a tool to help meet the challenges of the sustainability agenda. We see these trends being actively demonstrated by our clients.

David O'Kelly

Partner, Corporate Finance

Get in touch

If you have any queries on the topics raised in this year's M&A Outlook 2021 report, please get in touch with Mark Collins or David O'Kelly of our Deal Advisory team.

Read more