Aon’s M&A Survey in Ireland Reveals Significant Caution over M&A Activity in Current Economic Climate

  • Just 18 percent of businesses across Ireland are considering engaging in M&A activity in the next one to two years due to economic uncertainty, with less than 10 percent considering it in the next six months
  • Sixty-nine percent of businesses cite rising inflation as the top risk for M&A in today’s economic climate
  • ESG and cyber risk are areas of growing importance when it comes to due diligence; however, many businesses have yet to prioritise these globally emerging factors

DUBLIN, IRELAND – 13 September 2022 Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm, today published a report about the attitudes and actions regarding M&A amongst senior business leaders in Ireland.

Aon’s M&A in Ireland Report, which surveyed 290 businesses across Ireland between April and June 2022, reveals that just 18 percent of businesses are considering engaging in a merger or acquisition in the next two years, with rising inflation (69 percent) cited as the main risk for engaging in M&A activity.

The short-term outlook is even more stark, with just 7 percent of business leaders saying they are more likely to engage in M&A activity in the next six months. This number only marginally improves when the outlook is extended to 12 and 24 months, with only 11 percent saying they were more likely to engage in M&A activity during those periods. The vast majority of business leaders, 70 percent and 71 percent, respectively, say they don’t know, suggesting a “wait and see” attitude amongst most business leaders when it comes to anticipating any possible improvement in the current economic climate.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Karl Curran, head of M&A and Transaction Solutions at Aon Ireland, said: “Just as the world began to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic, spurring a stellar year for global M&A activity in 2021, the landscape for M&A has changed again

“The conflict in Ukraine has raised geopolitical tensions and the economic impacts are already being felt around the world. Inflation is rising and central banks have either started to increase rates or have signalled their intention to do so, while stock markets have gone into reverse in anticipation of a recession. Against this volatile and uncertain backdrop, Aon’s M&A in Ireland Report offers insights to business leaders as they look to adapt to an increasingly complex M&A landscape.”

M&A risks and drivers

While rising inflation, followed by high valuations (45 percent) and lack of sustainable investment options (43 percent), constitute the top three risks for business leaders across Ireland who are considering engaging in M&A activity, the current geopolitical environment was also highlighted as an area of concern, with almost 2 in 5 (39 percent) citing geopolitical unrest as a risk when it comes to engaging in M&A activity.

Meanwhile, for those Irish organisations that are contemplating transactions, key drivers include a desire to increase business efficiencies (39 percent) and protecting and growing market share (33 percent). Other key motivators include accessing skilled talent (28 percent), highlighting the continued impact of “The Great Resignation,” followed by strengthening ability to navigate current volatility (20 percent).

Due diligence

Amidst a rapidly evolving fiscal and geopolitical environment, Aon’s research also offers important insights into the main areas of focus for business leaders across Ireland when it comes to due diligence.

While financials have emerged as the top focus area, according to the research, human capital ranked second - cited by 38 percent of respondents - ahead of the traditional areas of legal (37 percent) and tax (32 percent).

The survey also points to a growing awareness of the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors and cyber security within the due diligence process. A third of business leaders say that ESG standards are extremely important during a transaction, with the impact of the M&A target on the climate ranked as the most important ESG factor (24 percent). However, more than half of respondents say they have not considered ESG to date. These results show that while there is a growing perception that strong ESG performance and commercial strength often go together, many businesses across Ireland have yet to establish this link.

Meanwhile, although 42 percent of respondents say that failure to identify cyber security and technology risks in M&A targets could prevent a deal from taking place, just 26 percent of respondents cite cyber security as an important focus area for due diligence, suggesting a gap between business leaders’ awareness of the importance of cyber security and how much they prioritise it within the M&A due diligence process.

“The results are not unsurprising, with just 18 percent of Irish businesses considering engaging in a merger or acquisition within the next one to two years. This is in contrast to the global outlook for M&A, with Aon’s recent global M&A report revealing that more than two thirds of businesses expect M&A deal numbers to increase over the next 12 months. However, our research also shows us that the vast majority of Irish businesses are undecided, meaning that there is significant potential for increased M&A activity in Ireland once the current headwinds subside,” Curran said.

“The report also offers valuable insights into the evolving attitudes of business leaders across Ireland when it comes to M&A due diligence, with the more ‘non-traditional’ due diligence focus areas, such as cyber security and ESG, growing in importance. However, the number of leaders considering these factors is still low. This comes despite the mounting threat posed by cyberattacks worldwide and our recent global M&A report revealing that 90 percent of global dealmakers expect increased ESG scrutiny of transactions over the next three years. Therefore, it is critically important that Irish business leaders keep pace with their global peers in relation to these factors and prepare to incorporate new areas of focus into their due diligence.

“At Aon, we’ve been working with industry leaders to shape better decisions as they plan their M&A activity and improve their due diligence processes. The insights from Aon’s M&A in Ireland Report published today, and our global M&A report published earlier this year, will help Ireland’s business community make better-informed decisions to meet the challenges of increasingly complex M&A journeys and help mitigate evolving risks in the M&A process.”


Between the months of April and June 2022, iReach Insights conducted research on behalf of Aon Ireland into attitudes and actions regarding M&A activity in Ireland. The survey received 290 responses from business decision makers across the country, with 81 mid-sized SMEs, 86 large SMEs and 123 enterprises with 250+ employees taking part in the research.

To download the full Aon Ireland M&A report, visit

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