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UK private equity market leads the way in Europe as the industry continues to rebound following pandemic disruption

Thursday, 06 January 2022

Europe’s private equity industry has continued to rebound following disruption caused by the pandemic, completing 741 buyouts cumulatively valued at €141.5bn in 2021, according to provisional full-year data from CMBOR, the Centre for Private Equity and MBO Research.

As of Wednesday 2 Feb 2022, final year figures are now available on request.

Deal volume is broadly consistent with previous years, barring the understandable dip in 2020, whilst deal value reached its highest level since 2007, signalling Europe’s upswing as markets began to stabilise.

  • European private equity industry completed over €140bn of buyouts in 2021
  • Robust exit activity, comprising 374 realisations worth €8bn, with flotations a crucial driver of value
  • UK remains biggest market with 235 buyouts, including an unprecedented 12 £1bn+ ‘mega-deals’, driving cumulative values to £45.8bn
  • TMT most active sector with 188 deals at a cumulative value of €20.6bn

In CMBOR’s first full-year data announcement since its re-establishment within Nottingham University Business School with the support of Equistone Partners Europe, ‘mega-deals’ were a major driver of the bounceback in European buyout activity. The 37 transactions valued at over €1bn contributed €94.7bn, or approximately two-thirds, of aggregate buyout value – an unprecedented volume, aggregate value and market share for deals of this size. Public-to-private buyouts of listed companies accounted for seven of Europe’s 20 biggest deals as large-cap sponsors sought acquisition opportunities in public markets and deployed significant capital into take-private transactions.

European exit activity has also recovered to the levels seen during the record five-year period from 2014 to 2018, when cumulative exit values exceeded €100bn each year. After recording €73.7bn and €65.1bn in total exit value in 2019 and 2020 respectively, there were 374 exits with a cumulative value of €128.8bn in 2021. Flotations have been a crucial driver of this value, with six of the biggest 10 exits of the year being listings, showing private equity firms also steering investee companies back towards public markets following a successful hold period. 

“Overall private equity was a net buyer across Europe last year, but that was skewed by a handful of landmark large-cap buyouts,” said Christiian Marriott, Head of Investor Relations at Equistone. “The mid-market remains the backbone of the industry and here private equity firms have been primarily focused on realising value for their investors. I’m sure we’re not the only GP in this segment that has returned more capital to LPs than we’ve invested in 2021.”

UK remains Europe’s biggest market

Private equity activity in the UK market in 2021 reached levels not seen since before the global financial crisis. At £45.8bn, the cumulative value of the 235 buyouts of UK-based companies last year represented the biggest headline figure in the 35-year history of CMBOR, surpassed on an inflation-adjusted basis only by the £44.1bn recorded in 2007.

In retaining its position as Europe’s largest private equity market, by both volume and value, the UK witnessed the same skew towards large-cap buyouts and take-private transactions, with 12 deals valued at over £1bn and public-to-private buyouts of listed companies accounting for five of the 10 biggest deals. Germany and France ranked second and third, with 111 deals valued at €17.2bn and 90 deals valued at €19.7bn respectively.

TMT continues to reign supreme

Although the retail sector witnessed a significant rise in both volume and value, from 22 deals with a cumulative value of €3.4bn to a record 51 with a cumulative value of €22.9bn, it was driven primarily by the year’s two biggest transactions – Clayton, Dubilier & Rice’s €8.3bn purchase of Morrisons and TDR Capital’s €7.8bn carve-out of ASDA.

It was TMT that accounted for more buyouts than any other sector, with 188 deals with a cumulative value of €20.6bn, continuing its emergence as an industry increasingly funded by private equity. The European manufacturing sector retained the highest cumulative value of any sector at €27.8bn, but this was down on previous years, while deal volumes in the sector also continued their year-on-year decline dating back to 2018.

We’ve seen an extremely buoyant European buyout market in 2021, indicating that the industry has mounted a near full recovery from the impact of Covid. What is interesting is how part of that recovery has involved private equity taking an ever-greater role in funding high-growth companies in those sectors such as technology that will be the fundamental building blocks of the European economy post-pandemic.
Dr Kevin Amess, Director of CMBOR and Associate Professor in Industrial Economics at Nottingham University Business School

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Kevin Amess at Nottingham University Business School in the Faculty of Social Sciences


The Centre for Private Equity and MBO Research (CMBOR) is based at Nottingham University Business School and co-funded by Equistone Partners Europe. Founded in 1986 by the late Professor Mike Wright at Nottingham University Business School, CMBOR was the first centre of its kind devoted to the objective study of private equity activity and management buyouts.

The CMBOR database is the gold-standard for European private equity investments and management buyouts, collecting and aggregating quantitative data: value, volume, region, industry, structure, and exit. The database has been used to produce quarterly reports for industry and international media for more than 30 years. The Centre’s objective market intelligence of private equity activity and analyses of trends, presented in charts and graphs, provides essential insight.

CMBOR has provided independent analysis and advice to enhance government, industry and the wider public’s understanding of the private equity industry and inform the development of policies and practice in the UK, Europe, and US.


The data compiled by CMBOR summarises trends in buyouts across Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Turkey and the UK). Data cut-off date: the data in this press release is for deals completed by 14 December 2021.

CMBOR defines buyouts as over 50% of shares changing ownership with management or private equity, or both having a controlling stake upon deal completion. Equity funding must primarily be from private equity funds and the bought-out company must have its own financing structure, e.g., MBO/MBI.

About Equistone Partners Europe Limited

Equistone is an independent investment firm wholly-owned and managed by its executives. The company is one of Europe’s leading investors in mid-market buyouts with a strong, consistent track record spanning over 40 years, with more than 400 transactions completed in this period. Equistone has a strong focus on change of ownership deals and aims to invest between €25m and €200m+ of equity in businesses with enterprise values of between €50m and €500m. The company has a team of over 40 investment professionals operating across France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, investing as a strategic partner alongside management teams. Equistone is currently investing its sixth buyout fund, which held a final closing at its €2.8bn hard cap in March 2018.

Equistone is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Further information can be found at

Katie Andrews - Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Social Sciences
Phone: 0115 951 5751

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