• Survey of 800 business leaders finds tech sector expecting the most M&A activity by far, while tech also driving M&A across all sectors
  • Distressed investment opportunities also set to rise, driven by tech disruption and regulatory pressure

Strategic M&A activity will be a key driver of the post-pandemic recovery right across the Asia Pacific region, as companies more aggressively move to acquire technology and skills, while in some cases divesting to reduce their regulatory burdens.

That is according to a new report, Charting Growth - The New M&A Landscape in Asia Pacific, in which 800 senior executives* across the Asia Pacific region were surveyed on their company and sector transactional outlook.

charting growth

Executives across Asia Pacific are sending a clear signal that deal making will be integral to their renewal and growth strategies over the course of this year and into 2022 - 77% of respondents expect M&A in their industry to increase in the year ahead, including 42% that say there will a major uptick in transactions. In terms of industries, the tech sector was far and away the most bullish, with more than three quarters (78%) predicting transactions would increase markedly over the next 12 months.

When asked what the key drivers of their own deal activity would be, more than half of respondents (57%) cited acquiring new technology and associated expertise, which jumped to 74% of healthcare companies, 85% of financial institutions, and a full 92% of technology, media and telecoms companies. This signals major consolidation across the tech sector, as fast growth companies snap up rival firms and complementary platforms, and move into new markets.

In fact, accessing new markets also ranked highly among respondent considerations (40%). Many business leaders recognize that to survive in the current market, organizations must expand their regional and global footprints, despite travel and other restrictions. 

Andrew Martin, Managing Principal, Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow, Singapore, said that: “Differentiated economic recovery in the region is indicative of the varied challenges countries face in managing the pandemic. However, as a region, M&A is expected to remain robust, particularly in tech acquisitions and for financial institutions. While overall economic outlook does affect investor outlook, factors such as regulation and access to new markets (and therefore demand) will also shape the deal landscape. The power of financial investors, including private equity and venture capital, infra and credit funds, as well as family offices, will also inform the deal climate in the region."

There is also more distressed investment opportunities expected across the region, with 63% of consumer goods and retail companies citing obsolete sales and distribution models as the biggest driver of distress in that sector, for example.

Meanwhile, across every industry, regulatory enforcement is now expected to be one of the leading factors driving possible insolvencies. Interestingly, companies in Indonesia and Thailand are most worried about increased regulatory enforcement, while companies in India are most concerned about new regulations coming in.

Kate Jefferson, Asia Pacific M&A Steering Committee Member and Partner, Sydney, said: “The regulatory landscape has shifted considerably since Q2 2020. Many regulators now have an expanded set of “tools” at their disposal to hold companies accountable for non-compliance with increasingly onerous regulations, and the reach of the measures being implemented by regulators is unprecedented.

"Although often substantial, fines and penalties may be small in comparison to the actual cost for a business of a regulatory breach. More serious consequences of breach include significant reputational harm, asset divestment orders and class action proceedings, all of which can quickly lead to insolvency. Understanding the applicable regulatory environment and implementing a robust compliance program is key for a business in respect of unlocking value, minimizing the impact of tech disruption and capitalizing on opportunities.”

*The 800 respondents were surveyed in Q1 2021 across nine jurisdictions - Hong Kong, Mainland China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, India, Japan and Thailand - and six sectors - Technology Media and Telecoms (TMT) , Healthcare and Life Sciences (HLS), Consumer Goods and Retail (CGR), Industrial, Manufacturing and Transport (IMT), Financial Institutions (FI) and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure (EMI). This Asia Pacific business and legal issues research has been run every two years since 2016 by Baker McKenzie in Asia Pacific.

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