More than a quarter of privately held businesses are expecting to make acquisitions in the coming three years, according to Grant Thornton’s latest International Business Report (IBR).

This represents a drop from the 39 per cent and the 40 per cent who said they planned to grow through acquisitions in 2009 and 2008 reports respectively.

The annual survey, which canvasses the views of decision makers for around 500 private businesses in the UK alone, also found that a total of 12 per cent anticipated a change in ownership in their UK-based business. Of these, 36 per cent are expecting to be taken over by trade buyers, 27 per cent by their management team and 25 per cent are expecting to be subject to a buyout by financial investors.

Birmingham-based Martyn Pilley, from Grant Thornton’s corporate finance team, said: “Britain’s entrepreneurs are more hawkish on acquisitions than the rest of the world, with 21 per cent of UK firms saying they are focusing on mergers and acquisitions in preparation for the recovery, well above the global average of 14 per cent.

“Ironically, these acquisitive British firms are themselves particularly attractive to foreign bidders because of the prevailing weakness of sterling. Moreover, takeover capital for quality businesses of all sizes has become more readily available in Britain, as recently announced transactions have shown.”