M&A activity of Swiss SMEs - Record-breaking levels in uncertain times

Deloitte study 2023 - M&A activity of Swiss SMEs
M&A activity of Swiss SMEs - Record-breaking levels in uncertain times

In line with 2021, but cautious for 2023

Following restricted M&A activity in 2020 due to COVID-19, activity in 2021 in both the global and Swiss M&A markets experienced a sharp rebound and reached a new record. This record was then exceeded in 2022, when Swiss SMEs acted either as buyer or as target in 244 transactions, almost 5% more than in 2021. This increase was due largely to a 25% rise in the number of outbound transactions. Together with a reduction in the number of domestic M&A, this resulted in cross-border deals accounting for over 70% of all Swiss SME transactions for the first time since we started the study in 2013. Another feature of 2022 is a bonanza of M&A deals in IT services (48 transactions, or 20% of the total): more details about this are given in our industry focus chapter in the report.

2022 was marked by macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty.

Dealmakers faced headwinds from several directions: soaring inflation and interest rates, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, supply chain problems and a downturn in the stock market. M&A activity was at record levels in H1 2022, but the market became much more cautious in the second half of the year. The combination of a gloomier economic outlook and expectations for higher inflation led to concerns about the risk of possible stagflation.

Key points of the study

Evolution of the number of transactions since 2013

M&A transactions involving Swiss SMEs since 2013 (by number)

Transactions in Switzerland

Despite the economic slowdown, Swiss SMEs were still attractive to investors. Compared to 2021, deal volume in Switzerland (169 acquisitions) fell by 2%.

Uncertainty regarding the future economy

2023 outlook

Although low economic growth of 1.0% is expected for Switzerland in 20231, some forecasts predict that economies of industrialised countries will slip into a mild recession. Headwinds such as the threat from inflation and further interest rate hikes could derail transactions both from a seller’s and a buyer’s point of view. Higher interest rates reduce the appetite for M&A activity and are likely to affect valuations. Deal activity will be affected by the global repercussions of the war in Ukraine as well as by high inflation, although the impact of COVID on global public health is lessening. Traction in the M&A market will also depend on interventions by governments and central banks to sustain the economy and capital markets, as well as on geopolitical risks in some other parts of the world, and by the desire of buyers to secure highly sought-after skills that they struggle to recruit in the labour market.

On a positive note, the economic prospects for the beginning of 2023 have improved over the overall sentiment prevailing since the end of 2022. Recent economic data for Europe is better than anticipated, with a lower price of energy and stronger consumer demand. This gives hope for a better-than-anticipated economic performance for the current year and improving economic data could have a favourable impact on the level of M&A activity over the next twelve months.

1. Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)

Download the report

Deloitte 2023 survey on M&A activity in the Swiss SME sector

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