An opportunity in crisis – Italian M&A and PE activity in 2019–Q1 2020

COVID-19 hits Italian dealmaking, but opportunities arise for PE funds with capital to deploy

Italian buyout activity, and M&A more broadly, fell heavily in the first part of 2020.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the Italian M&A market recorded 112 deals in Q1 2020 – 12% fewer than Q1 2019 in terms of volume – making it the weakest quarter in six years. However, deal value of €11.9bn was higher than the same period in the previous two years, thanks to three acquisitions with a price tag above the €1bn mark. The largest transaction – should it be successfully approved by shareholders and regulators – was Intesa Sanpaolo’s announced public offer for UBI Banca, in what could be one of the largest European banking acquisitions of the last decade.


Further key findings from the report include:

  • Megadeals are on the decline. The three largest transactions in 2018, all of which were €1 billion-plus trades, had a combined value of over €9 billion; so far this year the top three had an aggregate value of €2.9 billion. The same trend can be seen in Europe as a whole.
  • Family businesses forge ahead. Three of the top five private equity deals in the first nine months of 2019 were for family businesses, including Carlyle’s €1 billion purchase of the Forgital Group.
  • Three sectors dominated market share in Italy: consumer goods, industrials and healthcare. In terms of volume, the consumer goods and industrial sectors together accounted for more than half of all deals between 2018 and 2019. In value terms, healthcare claims the greatest share; the sector constituted almost a third (29%) of euro invested between 2018 and 2019.
  • M&A activity matches this year’s PE — volume is robust while value has slipped. Deal volume has held up well in 2019, with 444 deals for the first three quarters of the year compared with 480 in the same period last year. However, as with its PE counterpart, value has dropped — from €44 billion in Q1-Q3 2018 to €24.9 billion in 2019.
Covid-19 Update