Surge in private equity confidence delivers a spike in Q1 M&A deals

29 April 2021

A spike in M&A deal volumes was witnessed in Q1 2021, with 776 completed transactions marking the highest level seen for 13 years as private equity confidence soared according to BDO’s latest PCPI / PEPI* quarterly report.  

While Q4 2016 came close with 771 deals, the last time these levels were exceeded was in Q2 2008.  

The rise in volumes - which represents an 8.2% increase on Q4 2020 activity levels - reflects a market continuing to catch-up on deals following last year’s lockdown hiatus, and an acceleration to complete transactions before the rumoured capital gains tax (CGT) rise.  

Trade deals were up 3.4% to total 612, the highest since Q4 2018. But it was private equity which demonstrated the most significant surge in confidence, with volumes up 31.2% on Q4 2020 as 164 deals completed. The last time PE deals exceeded 150 was in Q2 2008. 

Amid the bustle, deal values remained strong. Trade multiples edged up to 10.6x (Q4 10.2x), while PE multiples maintained strength at 12.3x (Q4 12.2x). The FTSE all-share also continued to soar, recording a record multiple of 16.8x (Q4 14.8x), reflecting market valuations based on current year earnings rather than the 2020 dip in performance.  

Roger Buckley, M&A Partner at BDO, commented: “We saw an astonishing quantity of deals completing in the first quarter of this year, which was driven by a number of factors including catch-up activity, the potential rise in CGT, and a considerable step-up in private equity investment. Private equity raised £55.3bn in the UK in 2020, up from £52bn the previous year. Having increased its share to 21% of all deals completed in Q1 (up from 17% in Q4), we should expect to see this foothold maintained. 

“While we continue to live in uncertain times, Q1’s performance doesn’t feel like a blip. Overall, we anticipate a strong 2021-22, with deal activity levels continuing to stay strong.”  

*Private Company Pricing Index / Private Equity Pricing Index


Notes to editors

Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP provides integrated advice and solutions to help businesses navigate a changing world. 

Our clients are Britain’s economic engine – ambitious, entrepreneurially-spirited and high-growth businesses that fuel the economy.  

We share our clients’ ambitions and their entrepreneurial mind-set. We have the right combination of global reach, integrity and expertise to help them succeed.  

BDO LLP operates in 18 offices across the UK, employing 6,000 people offering tax, audit and assurance, and a range of advisory services. BDO LLP is the UK member firm of the BDO international network.

BDO’s global network
The BDO global network provides business advisory services in 167 countries, with 91,000 people working out of 1,658 offices worldwide. It has revenues of $10.3bn.  


Roger Buckley
M&A Partner, BDO 
Tel: +44(0)121 352 6213
Email: [email protected] 

BDO press office: 
Tel: 020 7893 3000
Email: [email protected]