UAE keeps the region’s top foreign investment hub spot for Q1 2020

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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UAE Dubai
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Global law firm Baker McKenzie reports that UAE remained the first choice in the region for International Investors during the first quarter of 2020 with six more Merger & Acquisition deals.

“It is evident that the current global situation has caused a slowdown in the growth of M&A activity in the Middle East, but Q1 2020 seems to have benefited from last year’s momentum.”
– Omar Momany, Partner,
Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla

India was the top acquirer country for inbound investment into the Middle East in Q1 2020 in terms of volume with seven deals valued at $130 million. The US was the top acquirer country in terms of value with $1.06 billion and ranked second in terms of volume with four deals. The UAE remained the most attractive foreign investment destination both by volume and value with 16 deals amounting to $ 1.1 billion.

The UAE was also the most acquisitive country by volume in Q1 2020, with 11 outbound deals amounting to $352 million. Saudi Arabia was the top acquirer country by value with $2.6 billion and ranked second by volume with nine deals.

The aggregate value of the foreign direct investment in the UAE soared to $140.3 billion at the end of 2018, as the second-biggest Arab economy proceeds to implement reforms and attract foreign capital despite global economic headwinds.

An eight percent year-on-year rise in the aggregate value of FDI to the UAE in 2018 bucked a global trend, according to the UAE Minister of Economy Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri.

The US was the top target country for outbound deals in terms of volume benefiting from 12 deals valued at $820 million followed by Egypt (six deals) and the UK (3three deals). Egypt however, was the most popular target country by value as its deals accounted for $2.4 billion or 66 percent of all outbound activity from the region.

Total Middle East M&A deal activity surged to $9.3 billion out of 95 deals in Q1 2020, up from nearly $4.0 billion out of 89 deals in Q4 2019. The top five largest deals were valued at 7.4 billion, accounting for almost 80 percent of total deal values. Industries that secured the most value for its deals were industrials with $ 1 billion followed by high technology with $190 million.

“Given the current economic environment and the level of uncertainty that exists due to Covid-19, we can potentially expect two possible scenarios moving forward. The first is a further slowdown in the M&A volumes and values in the next two and possible three quarters reflecting on the global uncertainty, investors’ anxiety and shift of priorities. The second scenario is that growth continues but at a much slower pace and value, similar to that of Q1 of the current year, driven by companies being interested to join forces in an attempt to mitigate losses and consolidate and driven by the availability of quality assets and targets available at a lower valuation. This is certainly an unprecedented time and one can only speculate as to what the short-term future will hold in relation to M&As in the region,” Momany said.

The UAE continued the most attractive foreign investment destination in the first quarter as the value of merger and acquisition activity in the Middle East during the period rose by $5 billion in comparison to the previous quarter.