New Zealand companies need to be more active in undertaking cross-border mergers and acquisitions if we are to fully capitalise on our intellectual property, our clean-green image and the other advantages we have as a country.

Recent research from the latest Grant Thornton International Business Report shows that an increasing number of businesses worldwide are looking to grow through mergers or acquisitions both domestically and cross-border, a factor not reflected in New Zealand.

Martin Gray, Head of Lead Advisory for Grant Thornton New Zealand, said that New Zealand was on a par with the global average (30%) when looking at companies planning to grow through acquisition in the next three years, but below the global average (24% compared with 33%) for cross-border acquisition.

“With our size, geographic isolation and intellectual property, it is imperative that we are above the global average when it comes to cross-border acquisitions. We need to be involved in those parts of the value chain that provide the greatest margin for the value we bring to the table.

“Where is the New Zealand strategy to help our companies acquire businesses internationally so that they become more involved in this chain, thereby reaping larger profits?

“For New Zealand our stars are aligned when you look at our products, our position in the market and our intellectual property in sectors experiencing strong growth,” he said.

New Zealand companies seeking revenue and value growth identified three key drivers for attaining these goals: building scale (61%), accessing new geographic markets (59%) and acquiring new technology or established brands (41%).

Gray has worked with a large number of New Zealand corporates on their international expansion, particularly into Asian countries. With over 25 visits to China alone he has first-hand insight into how Asian countries value New Zealand’s products and services.

“Just look at how overseas companies are able to come to New Zealand and buy our companies for higher prices. Rather than complaining about what these companies are willing to pay, we should spend more time exploring why the price is higher and position ourselves to participate in a greater share of margin throughout the global value chain.

“Strategic acquisitions internationally are an enabler of these goals,” he said.

The research showed that despite the on-going global economic challenges, business appetite for M&A has improved markedly over the past 24 months.

“Naturally, domestic M&A remains high on the agendas of business leaders but it is the upswing in interest of overseas expansion that is encouraging from a global experience. We just have to make sure that New Zealand companies are part of  this growth trend.”

The IBR revealed some interesting regional variations. The regions most interested in making an acquisition in the next three years are North America (37%), UK & Ireland (36%) and the BRIC economies (35%). This compares to only 28% in mainland Europe and 25% in Asia Pacific and in particular companies in the troubled economies of Greece, Ireland and Spain where only 16% indicated an interest in M&A activity in the coming three years.

“Following the financial crisis of 2008, the flow of economic power from ‘west’ to ‘east’ has undoubtedly sped up. Corporates in mature markets appreciate that M&A remains a vital strategic tool to enable them to  benefit from these trends. We need to do this here,” he said.

Further enquiries, please contact:

Martin Gray            
Head of Lead Advisory           
Grant Thornton  New Zealand
T +64 (0)9-308-2983            
M +64 (0)21 658 269