UK private equity investment slumps in 2023, but green shoots of hope for 2024

KPMG UK's latest M&A study reveals a drop in investment activity in 2023

KPMG UK's latest M&A study reveals a drop in investment activity in 2023

Mid-market* private equity investment activity in the UK declined by 10% in 2023, as challenging macroeconomic conditions presented few glimmers of hope for recovery, according to KPMG UK’s latest Mid-Market Private Equity report.

The firm’s most recent M&A study has revealed that 675 mid-market transactions were completed during the year, representing a 10% drop when compared to the 735 transactions completed in 2022. Meanwhile, the UK private equity market overall witnessed a more significant decline, with the total volume of deals down by 20% from 1,802 in 2022 to 1,451 in 2023.

Commenting on the findings, Alex Hartley, Head of Private Equity within Corporate Finance at KPMG UK, said: “As we entered 2023, there were high hopes of a return to stability. However it soon became clear that rising inflation, high interest rates and geopolitical uncertainty weren’t going away any time soon. While a healthy number of transactions were completed in the first half of 2023, the macroeconomic instability that persisted led some vendors and purchasers to retreat and hold out for more favourable conditions.” 

Whilst across the board deal volumes were down in 2023, Business Services remained the dominant sector for activity accounting for 44% of all deals, followed by Tech, Media and Telco (TMT) which made up almost a fifth (18%). However, the volume of TMT deals declined by almost a quarter (24%) year-on-year to the lowest level seen in five years. Conversely, Financial Services was the only sector to buck the trend with an increase in investment activity, as 86 deals worth £9.5 billion were completed – an increase of 13.6% in volume when compared to 2022.

The number of UK mid-market private equity-backed exits remained low, with the volume also down by 10%, from 202 deals in 2022 to 181 in 2023.

Rob Baxter, Head of Corporate Finance at KPMG UK, said: “It’s not surprising that private equity exits reduced through 2023’s challenging market conditions, and in a year when 65% of all mid-market private equity deals were bolt-ons, it’s clear that firms are increasingly looking to add value to their portfolio companies through scale. It's a trend I suspect we’ll continue to see for the next 12 months at least.”

Will M&A return to form in 2024?

Rob conclude: "M&A markets do not need ultra-low interest rates and a bull market to flourish, but they do need economic and political stability, and over the last 12 months, both have been in short supply. There are a few variables ahead that will inevitably have an impact on the market, with major elections set for the US, UK and Europe, and ongoing geopolitical uncertainty across the globe.

“Whilst political uncertainty may well feature in 2024, UK dealmakers are hopeful for economic stability, aided by falling inflation and a steadier, falling interest rate environment. Financing costs, however, are likely to remain higher than we’ve seen for a long time. Against this mixed backdrop, the private equity industry itself looks set to experience structural changes, which could lead to consolidation.

“That being said, overall the fundamentals that underpin the private equity market are still very much in place. Capital is available, valuations have started to normalise and the debt markets are still supportive - albeit with greater scrutiny and higher costs. This, together with the stability that bolsters the confidence of Boards, Investment Committees and Credit Committees, should pave the way for a more positive dealmaking environment in 2024.” 

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Notes to editors:

*Mid-market private equity deals are deals with an enterprise value/deal value between £10 million and £300 million.

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For further information please contact:

Jo Chileshe, KPMG Media Relations
M: +44 7919 211803


About KPMG

KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 20 offices across the UK with approximately 17,000 partners and staff. The UK firm recorded a revenue of £2.72 billion in the year ended 30 September 2022.  

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