GP Bullhound: Britain is top European target for Asian tech buyers


Britain has become the top European target for Asian buyers looking to acquire technology companies, a new report shows.

The report, from London-based technology investment bank GP Bullhound, reveals that 30 UK tech firms have been sold to Asian firms since 2014 – more than any other country in Europe.

According to the research, the transactions are thought to have set back Asian buyers a total of $37.4bn (£28.9m).

The last three years have seen an increasing Asian incursion into European tech firms, with the number of acquisitions almost doubling between 2014 and 2016, from 22 to 49.

The combined deal value increased 30 fold to $50.4bn (£38.9), meaning that in 2016 the Asian appetite for European tech firms nearly matched that of North America.

One such acquisition was Cambridge-founded chip designer ARM, which made headlines when it was sold to Japanese firm SoftBank last year for £24bn. Softbank went on in March of this year to sell a 25% stake in the firm, worth $8bn (£6.2bn) , to a technology fund it is creating with Saudi Arabia.

2016 also saw the sale of Manchester-founded flight browser SkyScanner to Chinese tourism group, for $1.4bn (£1m). SkyScanner’s chief executive, Gareth Williams, said at the time that the firm remained “very much a British company”.

Other acquisitions include the UK-based computer gaming company Splash Damage, which was sold to the Hong Kong-based chicken supplier Leyou for $160m in July 2016.

Splash Damage, famous for its ‘Gears of War’ game franchise, became the second game developer owned by Leyou. The sale will see up to $150m (£116m) paid to Splash Damage’s sole British owner, Paul Wedgwood, in coming years.

China vs Japan

Of the Asian buyers, China and Japan have dominated, the report shows, accounting for 97% of the deals disclosed since 2014.

Japan has historically been Asia’s dominant country of origin for Asia-to-Europe mergers and acquisitions. Since the beginning of 2016, however, China has replaced Japan as Asia’s dominant tech buyer.