How Brexit and the U.S. election could shift the global M&A landscape in 2020

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Global deal making will improve in 2020 as Brexit, easing geopolitical uncertainties and the U.S. presidential election change the M&A landscape, according to a new report.

Trade tensions between the U.S. and China, Brexit complications and an array of political uncertainties led to a drop in global M&A in 2019, though cross-border deal making remained resilient.

A new report by law firm Akin Gump found that senior deal makers at global companies and trade lawyers expected business to pick up over the next two years and that Europe was “open for business.”

The de-escalation of the U.S.-China trade war and the revamped U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), as well as moves to resolve Brexit, would help ease tensions and boost M&A, it said. It added that protectionist leanings of governments across the world presented headwinds but that “with good preparation and advice, these headwinds are navigable.”

U.S. and transatlantic deal making, which has thrived since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, would be further boosted by his re-election in November, the Akin Gump survey predicted.

The election cycle will add an extra layer of uncertainty as the nomination of certain Democratic candidates, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, could disrupt deals, given their progressive policies, the report said.

However, the election is unlikely to stall activity.

“Given the strength of the U.S. economy and the record amount of dry powder available to buyout firms, deal makers will not be able to sit on their hands awaiting the poll result,” the report said.

The U.K. remains the top destination for U.S.-EU inbound activity, and Boris Johnson’s decisive election win at the end of last year could boost deal making further in 2020, according to the report.

The Conservative victory, with a majority of 80 members of Parliament, has provided clarity over Brexit, with Britain leaving the EU at the end of January.

Gavin Weir, an Akin Gump M&A partner, said: “There is an M&A backlog as some deals went on hold before the election. This bodes well for activity in 2020 as buyers and sellers return to the market.”

The fact that the U.K. avoided a Jeremy Corbyn–led Labour government was also welcomed by businesses and financial markets. Corbyn had laid out policies to nationalize a number of industries.

The European head of a global private-equity house, unnamed in the report, is quoted as having said the following: “Despite all the noise about Brexit, the thing that kept most deal makers up at night was the prospect of a Corbyn government.”

U.S.-backed M&A in the U.K. has been strong since the EU referendum in 2016, as U.S. deal makers made the most of the weaker pound, highlighted by a number of deals, including Advent International’s £4 billion takeover of U.K. defense contractor Cobham.

The report said the newfound political stability would sustain inbound investment into the U.K., particularly from the U.S.