NYT DealBook, April 14, 2010:
Corporate executives from around the globe feel more confident about making deals, with many of them planning mergers and acquisitions in the near future, according to a new survey of business confidence by Ernst & Young and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The Capital Confidence Barometer, a survey of more than 800 professionals worldwide, found that 57 percent of businesses say they are likely or highly likely to acquire a rival in the next 12 months, with 47 percent expecting to reach a deal in the next six months. That compares with six months ago when the biannual survey found that just 33 percent were planning acquisitions over the coming 12 months, with 25 percent expecting deals in the coming six months.
The biannual survey complements another look at mergers and acquisitions released on Wednesday by the Brunswick Group, a corporate communications firm. That survey showed top bankers and lawyers were even more optimistic, with two-thirds saying they thought deal-making activity was on the increase.
The Ernst & Young study also found that confidence in credit conditions was improving, as 62 percent of respondents said they could obtain financing for major capital projects and acquisitions in the next 12 months. Up to now, most deals have been cash-based because of the lack of bank financing.
“Improving market conditions have more companies shopping again and those with capital to deploy are ahead of the game,” Richard Jeanneret, vice chairman of transaction advisory services at Ernst & Young, said in a statement. “There’s a greater focus on growth opportunities and M.&A. is one way to achieve that goal.”
The survey, which was conducted in late March, also found that 76 percent of businesses were now focused on growth, compared with 56 percent six months ago. Those executives in the automotive sector were the most confident of growth, with 81 percent of respondents expecting their businesses to expand — a result that makes sense given the pounding that the auto industry took during the financial crisis.
Meanwhile, executives in the energy and pharmaceuticals sectors said that they were very likely to focus on mergers and acquisitions, as well as divestitures. About 69 percent of oil and gas companies said they were planning to sell a piece of their businesses in the next six months.
But while there was a pickup in sentiment concerning deals, the outlook for the broader economy remained somewhat weak. with just 40 percent of respondents expecting the economic downturn to end within 12 months.
There was a wide dispersion of confidence related to the economy depending on where the respondents were based. The most optimistic countries were Australia at 93 percent, India at 91 percent, Brazil at 83 percent and China at 80 percent.
The Western developed markets were among the least confident of the group, with France at 44 percent, the United States at 56 percent and Britain at 57 percent.
– Cyrus Sanati