Aug. 23, 2019, 11:11 a.m. EDT

With pound under pressure, foreign buyers are snapping up British companies

Entertainment One is latest example of foreign purchase

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By Lina Saigol


Bloomberg News/Landov
My Little Pony owner Hasbro is taking advantage of a weak British pound.

U.K. PLC is up for sale.

That’s the message foreign buyers are receiving as they rush to scoop up U.K.-listed companies taking advantage of the slump in sterling /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD +0.3953%   against the U.S. dollar in the run up to the October 31 deadline for Britain’s exit from the European Union.

From toys and pubs to aerospace and defence, companies across a diverse range of sectors have been snapped up in recent weeks as the U.K. hurtles towards a disorderly Brexit .

Hasbro /zigman2/quotes/201249319/composite HAS -0.05%  , the U.S. toy maker of Monopoly and My Little Pony, became the latest target on Thursday when it made a knockout £3.3 billion takeover bid for Entertainment One /zigman2/quotes/202849174/composite ETO +0.38%  . Just days earlier, the real-estate investment firm owned by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing splashed £4.6 billion to buy Greene King /zigman2/quotes/200735795/composite GNK -0.28%  , the U.K.’s biggest listed pubs and brewery group.

That brings the total value of announced U.K. inbound deals to $66 billion so far this year, according to data from Dealogic. Around $16 billion of those have been struck since Boris Johnson took over as prime minister from Theresa May in July.

Other high-profile British deals in the past two weeks include the £5bn merger between Takeway.com /zigman2/quotes/201653805/delayed NL:TKWY +0.32%  of the Netherlands and London-listed Just Eat /zigman2/quotes/205192708/delayed UK:JE +0.03%    to create the biggest online food delivery, overtaking Uber Eats.

Foreign exchange markets have been betting heavily against sterling since July when Johnson became prime minister. Investors are increasingly concerned that he will exit the EU without an agreement – a so-called “no-deal” scenario - which would see the British pound fall further.

Mergers and acquisitions are one of the quickest ways for companies to juice their revenues in the short-term as they look to grow their profits amid a slowing global economy.

Private equity, which is sitting on more than $2 trillion of unspent cash according to Preqin – is also contributing to the rise in dealmaking as they take U.K. listed companies private.

In June, Lego’s founding family teamed up with U.S. buyout group Blackstone to pay just under $6 billion to take Merlin, the owner of Legoland and Madame Tussauds, off the stock market. That same month, TDR Capital made a $2.4 billion all-cash offer for BCA MakertPlace /zigman2/quotes/204352509/delayed CA:BCA 0.00%  which owns the second-hand care dealing website WeBuyAnyCar.

Some deals are facing scrutiny over national security concerns. The U.K. government is currently looking into concerns that the £4 billion buyout of U.K. aerospace and defence supplier Cobham /zigman2/quotes/202481798/delayed UK:COB +0.29%   could impact the country’s skills and manufacturing base.

/zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled
US : Tullett Prebon
1.2953
+0.0051 +0.3953%
Volume: 0.0000
Nov. 18, 2019 4:12p
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/zigman2/quotes/201249319/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 95.36
-0.05 -0.05%
Volume: 1.59M
Nov. 18, 2019 4:00p
P/E Ratio
46.30
Dividend Yield
2.85%
Market Cap
$13.06 billion
Rev. per Employee
$848,083
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/zigman2/quotes/202849174/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 26.64
+0.10 +0.38%
Volume: 56,878
Nov. 18, 2019 4:00p
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/zigman2/quotes/200735795/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 10.86
-0.03 -0.28%
Volume: 164,776
Nov. 18, 2019 4:00p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
6.43%
Market Cap
$454.70 million
Rev. per Employee
$273,048
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/zigman2/quotes/201653805/delayed
NL : Netherlands: Euronext Amsterdam
78.80
+0.25 +0.32%
Volume: 195,193
Nov. 18, 2019 5:35p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
€4.81 billion
Rev. per Employee
€86,944
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/zigman2/quotes/205192708/delayed
UK : U.K.: London
750.00 p
+0.20 +0.03%
Volume: 720,449
Nov. 18, 2019 4:35p
P/E Ratio
129.31
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
£5.10 billion
Rev. per Employee
£161,688
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/zigman2/quotes/204352509/delayed
CA : Canadian Securities Exchange
$ 0.05
0.00 0.00%
Volume: 291.00
Nov. 11, 2019 2:54p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
N/A
Rev. per Employee
N/A
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/zigman2/quotes/202481798/delayed
UK : U.K.: London
154.80 p
+0.45 +0.29%
Volume: 4.32M
Nov. 18, 2019 4:35p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
£3.67 billion
Rev. per Employee
N/A
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