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Acquisitions in Scotland 2003-19


This report updates the previous research into the acquisitions market in Scotland, extending the period of data analysis from 2003 through to 2019. The aim of the update was to provide latest available data to aid understanding of the landscape, and to set these findings in the context of other research which has been exploring the growth dynamics in Scotland.


As in previous reports, the research used the ZEPHYR Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) database.


Several of the findings emphasised those of previous reports. There is little difference in the levels of inward acquisition of Scottish companies and other nations; Scotland has one of the lowest total number of companies being acquired which is mid-ranking as a percentage of the nation’s overall business base. Scotland has the lowest number of acquisitions made, one of the lowest rates of outward acquisition and the lowest rate of intra-nation acquisition. That levels of inward acquisition are no higher but the levels of making acquisition are low suggests the challenge lies in more companies using acquisition as a mechanism to achieve their ambitions, particularly via acquiring. Scotland has the best performance when it comes to keeping companies acquired from another nation, active following the acquisition. And whilst the similar rate for outward acquiring Scottish companies is higher, in comparison to other nations, Scotland has one of the poorest rates. This leads to Scotland having the largest acquisition ‘deficit’ (the gap between the rate of inward and outward acquisition). But this arises not because of a large inward acquisition rate, but a considerably lower outward acquisition rate. Given the prior evidence highlighted that acquisition is a viable tool used by companies to achieve their growth plans, the rate of acquisition in Scotland reflects other evidence which is highlighting a lack of companies who achieve and then sustain growth and/or high-growth.


No specific recommendations were made but given the evidence that acquisition can be used by companies to achieve growth plans and evidence points to a weakening in growth performance across Scotland, the challenge for policy-makers is to consider how acquisition could be used to appropriately address the growth challenge.

Author Scottish Enterprise
Published Year 2019
Report Type Research
  • Enterprise
    High growth entrepreneurship