Insights from Samson Lo, Co-Head of Asia Pacific M&A at UBS Global Banking

Samson Lo, Managing Director, Global Banking Co-Head of M&A Advisory, Asia Pacific from UBS recently shared with APAC BUSINESS his insights on the M&A market in the Asia Pacific region.

Samson joined UBS in 2010 and is primarily responsible for M&A origination and execution in the Asia Pacific region across industry sectors. From 2007-2010, Samson was a member of Merrill Lynch Asia Pacific’s investment banking team for Hong Kong-based corporations and Macau-based gaming companies. From 2000-2007, he was a member of Lehman Brothers’ M&A group in New York City, where he led executions for transactions across many industry sectors. Samson graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania’s Management & Technology Program, with joint undergraduate degrees from Wharton School and School of Engineering & Applied Sciences.

APAC BUSINESS: Samson, could you share some insights on the current Asia Pacific M&A market?  How do you view SPAC and its impact on the Asia Pacific capital market?

Samson Lo: The current M&A environment in Asia Pacific shows a lot of resilience despite the challenges resulting from geopolitics, inflationary pressure, protracted impact from COVID and travel restrictions.  And, particularly this year, we are seeing a diversity of M&A deals in terms of geography and type of deals.

In China, multinationals’ divestments and private equity firms’ exit of China assets have made up for the shortfall in cross-border M&A. Southeast Asia is picking up tremendous momentum in digital infrastructure M&A. And Australia continues to produce large scale public takeovers of trophy names. Japan has also been a consistent source of trophy asset sales to global private equity funds.

SPAC was a main driver of the global M&A volume in 2021.  However, this year the reduction of SPAC IPO volumes and the new rules and regulations around SPAC and de-SPAC has led to fewer de-SPAC M&As. Despite that we still managed to announce the merger of Ecarx with US listed COVA Acquisition Corp for US$3.4 billion. Hopefully this will generate some renewed interest in Asian and Chinese companies as de-SPAC targets.

APAC BUSINESS: Covid-19 has had a large and uneven impact on global supply chain and people’ daily life around the world, what are the challenges and opportunities for cross border M&A? Are there more divestiture opportunities coming from the financial sponsors and corporates, it seems many companies are suffering from Covid-19?

Samson Lo: Travel restrictions have not been helpful to cross border M&A flows, although they should no longer be as impactful towards the end of this year. The protracted impact from COVID in some situations helped to manage sellers’ expectations and it also helped us to revisit old deals from the past and drive the volume of take-privates by incumbent shareholders.

Divestments have been happening as part of ongoing corporate exercises and private equity firms’ monetizations, irrespective of COVID. Also,  the protracted impact from COVID has helped to breathe life back into some divestment plans that had been aborted in the past over gaps in valuation expectations.

APAC BUSINESS: From your observations, which regions or countries are the M&A hotspots in APAC and globally? And what are the most appealing industries and sectors this year?

Samson Lo: In APAC we see a significant pick up in activities in Australia, Japan and Southeast Asia. China continues to be popular ground for multinational divestment and private equity firm exits. We are still seeing mega deals being announced in the healthcare and tech space in the US. And there have been tons of digital infra M&A/ consolidations in Southeast Asia and in Europe, with infrastructure funds bidding aggressively on digital infra assets.

APAC BUSINESS: UBS is no doubt one of the leading M&A advisors in APAC, can you tell something about your team and your closed deals? For clients, how to select a good financial advisor when they plan for a big acquisition or divestiture deal?

Samson Lo: We have a very well balanced team with pan-Asia experience among the 20+ team members across Australia, Beijing, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore offices. We pride ourselves on the diversity of deal type we have advised upon, from take privates, SOE restructuring, divestments, buyouts, cross-regional to de-SPAC M&As. 

It’s all about selling deal experience to clients and having on-the-ground resources.  For example, we have not missed a beat in China M&A despite the impact of COVID as we constantly have resources on the ground there which enabled us  to continue commuting on behalf of clients.

APAC BUSINESS: Samson, I know that you also worked in several Bulge Brackets before. Could you tell us something about your personal background and experience in this industry? And what’s your personal feeling in working at UBS?

Samson Lo: I have been in M&A since graduating from being an undergraduate in 2000. Over the years since I have worked at Lehman Brothers in New York and Merrill Lynch and UBS in Hong Kong.

At UBS, we have been able to build a market leading M&A franchise in Asia Pacific by building upon the long track record of successes in China and Australia and replicating this success in other countries. And we are naturally at the receiving end of solid M&A leads through our global networks in America and Europe and our omnipresent wealth management network. It’s been exciting and rewarding to be part of UBS, driving our successes in M&A.