Liz Truss takes over as British prime minister at a time of vast challenge across the globe as economies tackle rising inflation. The UK and Europe are contending with a particularly acute energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Private equity bosses tell us they are prepared to give Truss a shot and hope she will steady the governmental ship which has been rocked by a wave of scandals culminating in the ousting of Boris Johnson.
“A government actually governing and focusing on support for SMEs and consumers up and down the country can only be good news for private equity,” said Markus Golser, joint managing partner of UK-focused mid-market buyout firm Graphite Capital. Others, such as Tristan Nagler, a UK-based partner at pan-European investor Aurelius, said he was simply glad to see a fresh change.
“I’m personally pleased to see the curtain finally fall on what feels like a very long Westminster saga,” Nagler said. “The final period of Boris Johnson’s premiership was so beset with challenges that it felt like government was becoming bogged down.”
The key question is how much impact a change in premiership will have on the UK as an attractive market for PE buyers amid a global macroeconomic backdrop that is hammering most economies. Private equity deal volume in the UK and Ireland is on pace to drop below the £198.4 billion ($227.96 billion; €228.77 billion) recorded in 2021, a near-decade record, with £75.6 billion of deal value recorded in the first half of this year, according to PitchBook data. It’s worth noting that this drop for the UK and Ireland is in line with global trends – private equity dealmaking globally has dropped as managers take stock of rising inflation, increasing interest rates, public market uncertainty and global geopolitical tensions.
With that in mind, it’s possible that a change in leadership will have considerably less impact on the UK private equity market at a time when global events seem to be more pertinent.
“Normally the change of prime minister would be a huge thing and there’d be a huge amount of analysis and concern,” David Barbour, managing partner of lower mid-market focused UK tech investor FPE Capital, told PEI. “The macro events we’ve had in the last five years have been so significant and so regular, the politics has almost been driven by that, not by the politicians.”
Alongside urgent decisions on energy prices and inflation, Michael Moore, the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association’s director general, said in a statement that it was critical that the new government focuses on the competitiveness of the UK and its attractiveness as a place to invest. By backing private capital – which invested £17.3 billion in the UK last year – Truss will be backing growth across the UK, Moore said.
The prime minister’s commentary thus far has already resonated with some of those outside the UK, with the managing partner of one Paris-headquartered GP telling PEI he has been “dreaming about opening a London office” since Johnson decided to step down. “Business is going to be so good – the UK will come out of these troubles,” the GP said.
A differing approach to economic policy could make the UK seem more attractive to investors following the fallout from Brexit, as European countries deal with acute energy issues given their reliance on Russian energy prior to the invasion of Ukraine. Truss’s pledges to commit to investment, growth and lowering taxes received particular applause from managers we spoke to given the implications they will have for entrepreneurialism and dealmaking opportunities in the UK. As always, the proof will be in what is delivered in the coming weeks and months.