Despite considerable volatility and uncertainty, 2020 has been an extraordinary year for the London Corporate team at White & Case, with a strong performance across the practice. We are pleased to have advised a large number of high-profile clients on cutting-edge deals, as well as providing valuable strategic insight to a broad range of investors and companies in the London market.
We are looking forward to 2021, and here's what to expect:
Activism … we expect to see more activist activity, as retail and institutional shareholders alike begin to see the benefits of active engagement, and more campaigns, as M&A returns to the market. Despite some recent equity market recovery, the UK continues to trade at a discount to its European peers. Shrewd investors will be looking at opportunistic acquisitions and we expect uncertainty around fundamental valuations to drive a transition towards more aggressive and competitive M&A in 2021, including more hostile bids. This will provide fertile ground for activist investors.
SPACs … have dominated the press in 2020, with over 200 SPAC IPOs raising more than $60bn in the US markets to date. Recent successes in the US have started to convert some of Europe's sceptics and in the last few weeks we have seen the first European SPAC IPOs. We are also seeing US SPACs looking to Europe for targets, which could be another key driver of European M&A in 2021. We expect more market participants to look to overcome the perceived regulatory hurdles in Europe to continue this trend.
National interest reviews … the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated an already growing trend of increased scrutiny of foreign direct investment. Resilience and sustainability have risen up the political agenda as countries have looked inwards and tightened legislation. At 11:00pm on 31 December, the UK will exit the European Union and the UK government will have to look at balancing protectionism with the need to continue to attract investment. FDI will be one of the top 5 considerations for investors looking to do M&A deals in 2021.
ESG … environmental, social and governance issues continue to attract attention globally, with investors increasingly willing to hold companies to account. Strong ESG credentials underpin a company's understanding of both the sustainability risks and future opportunities, which are attractive to investors. This is true across the full spectrum of industry sectors, from those well-established in the sustainability sphere to relative newcomers. Issuers will need to address these issues at board-level.
In addition to Les Prophéties, a collection of 942 poetic quatrains allegedly predicting future events, Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus), the infamous French Astrologer, also published a slightly less famous cookbook. The cookbook provides instructions on how to make, amongst other things, blonde hair dye, toothpaste and marmalade. There is also a "love jam", if you can get your hands on some eyelets from the arms of octopus. So what does Nostradamus predict for 2021? Well some of his followers believe he has predicted a zombie apocalypse … let's hope this is a misprint.
With close to 600 M&A lawyers around the world, White & Case is an M&A powerhouse and one of the most active M&A practices among global law firms – ranked among the top 3 firms for take private transactions in Europe for 2019 by deal value and volume. We are equally adept at advising on big ticket, complex M&A deals as well as on mid-sized and smaller deals for strategic clients in EMEA and the rest of the world. Led by M&A heavy hitters, with a deep bench of public M&A and PE specialists with an established record advising targets and bidders on takeover offers and schemes. We also have a market-leading practice for acquisition finance and debt capital markets (including high yield), offering innovative financing solutions for both bidders and targets.
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