Investors around the world reacted immediately to Britain’s vote to exit the European Union with angst, as stock markets plunged, the value of the British pound plummeted to 1985 levels, and the country’s credit rating fell. But it will take a while to gauge the true impact on M&A, which is likely to be mixed. In the short term, the U.K.'s exit from the EU may fan the flames of uncertainty present in a U.S. election year that have already singed the middle market. Some dealmakers, however, see opportunities in the news.
Assuming that Britain’s leaders follow the will of the voters, the country will have to negotiate new trade agreements with European Union countries and with countries outside the EU--a process that could take more than two years. And the new trade agreements will be less favorable to Britain than what it enjoyed with EU access. Some U.S. companies have established offices and operations in Britain to gain EU free-trade access, so as that access ends, strategic buyers—especially manufacturers-- will be exploring acquisition opportunities in other EU countries, according to Ashley Craig and Lindsay Meyer, partners at the Venable law firm. U.S.-based financial institutions and insurance companies operating in London for similar EU access will also look to move to other European financial centers, such as Dublin, Frankfurt or Paris.