A CEO at one of the world’s largest asset managers is downbeat on European M&A while ‘people are frozen’ before Brexit


  • Lazard CEO Kenneth Jacobs says the UK has been “frozen” by Brexit.
  • One of the world’s largest asset managers, Lazard sees Europe as more of a mixed picture but suggests that domestic companies are more nervous.
  • “Brexit is putting a lot of things on hold because we’re getting closer to the point of no return,” Jacobs said.

Europe’s economic malaise has had a real impact on investment and deal-making, the CEO of financial advisory firm and asset manager Lazard says. The British exit from the European Union in particular, he says, is a key concern.

“From an M&A perspective, Brexit is putting a lot of things on hold because we’re getting closer to the point of no return,” Lazard CEO Kenneth Jacobs said in an interview this week. “People are more frozen as a result of that.”

Brexit has already seen considerable changes to the makeup of the UK’s financial-services industry. Numerous banks and other institutions are leaving the country ahead of March 29, when Britain is scheduled to leave the EU.

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Besides Brexit, investors have a lot more to fear when it comes to the economic health of the continent. There’s weak manufacturing data and mass protests in France, and two of the continent’s four biggest economies, representing a total gross domestic product of more than $5.5 trillion, are on the brink of or are already in recession.

“Domestic companies in Europe are a little more nervous,” he said.

Multinational businesses that have exposure to US markets are likely to be OK, Jacobs said. But those with greater exposure to China and emerging markets are “probably more muted,” he said.

Mergers and acquisitions have become an increasingly tricky market for active managers, which are suffering from heightened regulatory and technology costs, fee reductions, and slower growth. Buyers are trying to gain scale for cost efficiencies, better distribution, and more products.

Lazard’s $215 billion asset-management business hit a record $1.2 billion in revenue last year, according to earnings results released Tuesday.

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