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Private-Equity Firms Spark Bidding Wars in U.K.

Blackstone Group Inc., Carlyle Group Inc. and other buyout firms are bidding for U.K. publicly listed companies at a faster rate than they have in years. The reason: Post-Brexit Britain is one of the few markets where investors think big assets are going for cheap.

Buyout firms have struck 13 so-called public-to-private deals in Britain so far this year for a total value of almost $31 billion, acquiring businesses in sectors including healthcare, supermarkets and property development, according to Dealogic. That is the highest number for the comparable period since 2007 and more than double the six deals done in all of 2020.

By comparison, the U.S. has recorded 20 such deals since January, compared with 21 in all of last year.

The latest example: On Friday, Ultra Electronics Holdings PLC, a U.K.-based provider of defense equipment, received a roughly $3.5 billion takeover proposal from Cobham Ltd., a British aerospace and defense company owned by U.S. buyout firm Advent International.

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