Dealmaking Hits Bump as Market Slump Overshadows Cash Pile
Concerns about a declining global stock market and slowing economic growth are taking a toll on dealmaking, with takeovers in June tumbling to the lowest level in eight months.
The total value of takeovers announced so far this month fell 22 percent from May to about $178 billion, leaving second- quarter volume little changed from the previous three months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. At least two banks went for a week or more without a new mandate starting at the end of May, said senior advisers who declined to be identified. Business has been sluggish since then, they said.
The global recovery that spurred companies to pursue takeovers earlier in the quarter stumbled in June with Greece seeking to avoid a default and the U.S. Federal Reserve lowering growth forecasts. That has led to a dip in stock markets worldwide and may be temporarily overshadowing companies’ plans to expand their businesses and spend stockpiled cash.
“The market has taken a bit of a breather,” said Jack MacDonald, co-head of Americas M&A at Bank of America Corp. in Palo Alto, California. “Given economic headwinds and market volatility, CEOs seem to be taking a brief pause before pulling the trigger on transformational transactions.”
U.S. central bankers said the economy will expand as much as 2.9 percent this year, down from a maximum forecast of 3.3 percent in April. Gross domestic product slowed to 1.9 percent in the first quarter from 3.1 percent in the previous period, according to Commerce Department figures released June 24.
Out of the 20 largest acquisitions in the second quarter, four were announced in June, the data show. Capital One Financial Corp. agreed to purchase online bank ING Direct USA for $9.1 billion on June 16, and gas distributor Southern Union Co. (SUG) received competing takeover bids of more than $4 billion from Williams Cos. and Energy Transfer Equity LP this month. Carrefour SA said yesterday it’s considering a proposal to merge its Brazilian assets with a local retailer.
Other deals were scuttled during the period. Smithfield Foods Inc. (SFD) this month halted a $700 million purchase of a 50 percent stake in Spain’s Campofrio Food Group SA, citing weakness in Europe and in Smithfield’s own share price. The stock has dropped more than 7 percent in the past two months.
At the same time, corporate debt sales are falling globally, while yields relative to government bonds widen, partly on investor concern that Greece won’t be able to meet debt obligations. High-yield loans used to finance buyouts are headed for their first monthly loss of the year, led by Europe, according to Credit Suisse Group AG’s Leveraged Loan Index.
“Macro factors, which have caused volatility in the stock markets and the recent pullback in leveraged finance, can derail certain deals,” said Ehren Stenzler, co-head of U.S. M&A at UBS AG in New York. “We tend to think it is temporary, but those factors could cause companies to push the pause button for a bit on certain deals.”
Retailer Big Lots Inc. (BIG) abandoned plans for a sale in May after bids from leveraged buyout firms came in lower than anticipated, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
In an auction for Gen-Probe Inc. (GPRO), a maker of disease- testing diagnostics, bidders Life Technologies Corp. and Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. dropped out of the process when the asking price neared $80 a share, another person said. Novartis AG (NOVN) may still be interested, the person said. Shares of San Diego-based Gen-Probe have since fallen to $68.41.
Henkel AG Chief Executive Officer Kasper Rorsted said in an interview this week that deal price has been a roadblock for companies looking to make acquisitions, rather than the broader macroeconomic environment. He said he sees attractive assets in the U.S. and Europe.
Executives are getting more accustomed to the ups and downs of the market, according to Henrik Aslaksen, global head of M&A at Deutsche Bank AG in London.
“Volatility in today’s world does not stop a healthy company making important strategic decisions and acting on them,” Aslaksen said. “The cost of capital remains relatively low on a historic basis, and corporates have strong balance sheets.”
The top 1,000 non-financial companies are still sitting on more than $3.4 trillion in cash, and shareholders are rewarding strategic acquisitions by pushing up acquirers’ stock prices, Bloomberg data show. Apparel maker VF Corp. surged 10 percent on June 13 when it announced a deal to buy Timberland Co. for about $1.8 billion.
As global stock markets gained in April, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $21.3 billion for medical device maker Synthes Inc. and Exelon Corp. (EXC), the largest operator of U.S. nuclear power plants, said it would buy Constellation Energy Group Inc. (CEG) for about $7.9 billion in stock.
“Investors are still rallying around a deal that looks to grow the top line,” said Michael Boublik, chairman of M&A, Americas at Morgan Stanley.
The market for takeovers in North America held up better than other regions in June, with announced deals rising 14 percent from May to more than $82 billion. The dollar volume of transactions fell by more than 60 percent in Western Europe and more than 40 percent in Asia Pacific in that same period.
“We still see much greater confidence in the U.S., and we are having many more conversations with U.S. buyers of European companies,” said Giuseppe Monarchi, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa M&A for Credit Suisse Group AG. “But there is less visibility on large transactions than we had several weeks ago, partly because of Greece.”
Hernan Cristerna, head of M&A for Europe, Middle East and Africa, at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in London, also said that U.S. acquirers have been active in Europe, while European companies are targeting growth in emerging markets.
“Companies are not just looking for cost synergies, but real growth,” he said.
Worldwide, announced deals in the second quarter rose to almost $620 billion, or less than 1 percent from the first three months of the year, according to data through June 28.
Year to date, JPMorgan is leading financial advisers in global M&A transactions at $269.2 billion in deal volume, just ahead of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to Bloomberg data. Rounding out the top five are Credit Suisse and Citigroup Inc.
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