Monday, June 14, 2010

In Deal-Making, Flat Is the New Up

NYT DealBook, Monday, June 14, 2010:
Some bankers made rosy predictions for a big bounce-back in mergers and acquisitions this year. Yet deal volumes in the United States are recovering as if the recession just endured was run of the mill, Breakingviews says.
After two down years, the value of American corporate match-making is flat in 2010. That’s no boom — but if history is any guide, it’s also nothing for bankers to complain about, the publication says.
After declines of 41 percent in 2008 and 22 percent in 2009, the value of announced deals in the United States so far in 2010, at $322 billion, is just a fraction off last year’s pace. That pattern is in line with the last two recessions, according to Thomson Reuters data. The downturn of the early 1990s had three dry years, and the dot-com bust brought two.
So considering the depth of the latest recession, flat is the new up, Breakingviews argues. True, some on Wall Street had forecast a more robust rebound. Goldman Sachs predicted “a perfect storm for M.& A.” late last year, pointing to cash-stuffed corporate coffers — now at a record, according to the Federal Reserve — and benign capital markets. Greenhill & Company also predicted 2010 would be big for deal-makers.
But while last year’s fourth quarter showed a promising return of deal-making — like TPG’s buyout of IMS Health and Berkshire Hathaway’s acquisition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe — the momentum hasn’t continued, Breakingviews says.
Some may find that surprising. After all, while many companies achieved profit targets through cost-cutting during the economic downturn, the juice has probably been squeezed from that lemon. Acquiring competitors and eliminating overlap is another way to find cost reductions. For instance, while CenturyTel and Qwest have been cutting costs on their own, they now hope their merger will yield more than $600 million more in fresh savings.
The trouble is that even though the United States economy has stopped contracting, big risks still weigh on the animal spirits of executives, Breakingviews argues. Job growth is anemic and credit markets have had renewed volatility in the wake of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Such market turmoil may have played a role in scuttling Prudential’s bid for the American International Group’s Asian insurance business, and a $15 billion leveraged buyout of Fidelity National Information Services, the publication suggests.
Put it all together, and deal makers pining for more action should probably just consider themselves lucky to have any at all, Breakingviews says.
Go to Article from Breakingviews via The New York Times »

No comments: