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Private equity geared up for an active year

Almost all venture capitalists expect to see an increase in UK activity this year, in both volume and value of deals, with particular consolidation in the retail and financial services sectors.

A survey by Grant Thornton Corporate Finance found that 98% of private equity houses thought the number of UK deals would increase in the next twelve months and 95% thought the total value of deals would increase.

Having experienced a marked rise in investor interest recently, almost 30% expected financial services to be the most consolidated sector over the next six months, with 12% going for the retail sector and 14% for healthcare. Within retail 90% expected consolidation to come in the non-food sector, while 67% thought the majority of healthcare activity would come from care homes.

Mat Bhagrath, partner at Grant Thornton Corporate Finance, said: "In the retail sector, softening consumer spending and rising interest rates have hit pockets of the industry very hard. Weak Christmas trading for a number of retailers and burgeoning levels of personal debt is leaving a number of smaller retailers vulnerable to the advances of the larger players.

"The increasing power of supermarkets and their increasing diversification into non-food goods is also adversely impacting a number of high street retailers.

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