October Smashes Merger Records as Companies Turn to Megadeals

  • Level 3, Baker Hughes push month’s volume to $489 billion
  • Companies don’t consider election a top concern, Aquila says

Baker Hughes' Craighead, GE's Simonelli Weigh in on Deal

Forget merger Monday: October as a whole was a record month for dealmaking, with almost half a trillion dollars of mergers and acquisitions announced globally.

CenturyLink Inc.’s $34 billion acquisition of Level 3 Communications Inc., as well as General Electric Co.’s deal to combine its oil and gas division with Baker Hughes Inc., pushed October’s deal volumes to about $489 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the highest amount for at least 12 years, topping the previous record of $471 billion in April 2007, the data show.

“Every weekend recently has been busy,” Bob Profusek, partner and chair of the global M&A practice at law firm Jones Day, said in an interview Monday on Bloomberg Television.

“The fundamental drivers are still there,” Profusek said. “Low growth -- which is bad for most things, but it’s good for M&A because that’s how you get growth -- and very accommodating capital markets.”

Profusek worked for Potash Corp. on its merger with Agrium Inc., and is advising Reynolds American Inc. on British American Tobacco Plc’s $47 billion bid for the rest of the company.

To watch Bob Profusek talk about oil and gas M&A, click here

More Megadeals

Just eight transactions account for more than $300 billion of the October total as megadeals continue to find favor among dealmakers. The biggest deal of the year, AT&T Inc.’s $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner Inc., was revealed on Oct. 22 in a rare Saturday deal announcement.

So far this year, 32 deals valued at more than $10 billion have been struck. That puts 2016 on track to beat every year since 2007 except for last year, when a bumper 52 transactions of that size or more were announced.

“Size matters,” said Profusek, “particularly because we’re in a very challenging regulatory environment right now.”

Almost 30 deals announced since the start of 2015 have not yet closed, including Dow Chemical Co.’s $59 billion merger with DuPont Co., which was pushed back until next year.

The two health insurance megadeals -- Anthem Inc.’s bid for Cigna Corp. and Aetna Inc.’s offer for Humana Inc. -- are also still pending. Both those deals are currently trading with at least $40 gaps between the offer price and the target’s current share price, indicating investors are pessimistic they will close.

Despite currency and equity markets reacting skittishly to poll results and news sentiment in the final days before the U.S. presidential election, M&A activity is forging ahead.

“I don’t hear boards or management really putting the election high on their list of concerns,” Frank Aquila, partner at law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, said in a telephone interview. “Unless there is some sort of regulatory deadline or tax deadline that people are working to, deals get there when they get there.”

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