Divestments set to soar across the globe, suggests new study

BY James Williams

Geopolitical disruptions such as a volatile business landscape and regulatory upheavals are driving companies to pursue divestments in ever-increasing numbers, according to EY’s ‘2017 Global Corporate Divestment Study’.

The study, based on a survey of more than 900 corporate executives worldwide, notes that the uptick in divestments is very much being driven by geographical footprints, with companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) reporting that regional political instability (cited by 81 percent) and Brexit (cited by 73 percent) among the top issues.

Across the globe, 57 percent of multinationals in the Americas have indicated that their divestment decisions are motivated by technological change, with 84 percent also focused on regulatory changes. Globally, 56 percent of all survey respondents said they are more likely to divest as a result of an unpredictable landscape.

Further EY findings include: (i) 82 percent of companies said that macroeconomic volatility will increase the likelihood of them divesting over the next year; (ii) 48 percent of companies believe that tax-related divestment challenges have increased in the last 12 months; and (iii) 88 percent of companies have indicated that advanced analytics would help them make faster and better divestment decisions.

“In many cases, we are observing impulsive divestment decisions by companies feeling pressured by external factors to take quick action, often at the cost of realising maximum value," said Steve Krouskos, EY Global Vice Chair – Transaction Advisory Services. “The impact of too much speed on sale price is significant, and should motivate companies to be strategic and measured by prioritising value when navigating a sale process.”

The study also reveals that the current dealmaking is leading to senior executives craving “an information advantage”, with those not planning to divest in the next two years now looking to “evaluate their portfolios more rigorously”. Furthermore, 53 percent of executives made clear that understanding the business impact of new disruptive forces is among their “key portfolio review challenges”, and some even said it is “their biggest challenge”.

Paul Hammes, EY’s Global Divestment Leader, concluded: “We are seeing companies flee geographies because of short-term fears and wind up with suboptimal valuations on their business. Our survey finds that nearly half of companies plan to divest in the next two years. A divestment can empower a company to put capital to better use, enable a leaner operating model and enhance shareholder value.”

Report: Can divesting help you capitalize on disruption? – Global Corporate Divestment Study 2017

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