M&A Slowdown: Is the Golden Age of Dealmaking Over?

Amid Economic Uncertainties, the Future of M&A Transactions Remains Elusive

Key Takeaways

  • The Q2 report shows a noticeable dip in both cross-border and domestic M&A activity.
  • Factors like valuation mismatches and higher debt financing costs impede deal closures.
  • Despite current challenges, potential signals hint at the return of an M&A upswing.

A Downturn in the Numbers

Today’s financial landscape paints a somewhat somber picture for mergers and acquisitions. According to recent ONS statistics, M&A activity has seen a dip in the second quarter. Compared to the first quarter, which boasted a respectable 508 transactions, Q2 witnessed 58 fewer deals, indicating a marginal but discernible decline.

Interpreting the Trend

Economic fluctuations and the tremors they send across the market sectors are nothing new. Yet, what is surprising is the hesitation surrounding M&A activities, despite inflation beginning its journey to stabilization. As experts decipher this trend, several factors come into play:

  • Valuation Conflicts: The current market showcases significant disparities in valuation. The discord in perceived versus real value of potential merger entities is evidently causing many deal conversations to halt midway.
  • Financial Hurdles: Rising costs of debt financing are no friends to dealmakers. With higher expenses on the horizon and the looming risk of further economic uncertainties, many corporations are wary of entering the M&A arena.
  • Risk Aversion: With an unpredictable economic future, risk aversion is on the rise. Larger deals, which are both intricate and high-stake, necessitate alignment among multiple stakeholders. This alignment seems to be missing from the current market, resulting in several unfruitful negotiations and failed mergers.
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Where is the Conviction?

One of the most crucial elements in M&A is the conviction of buyers. This confidence stems from a belief in the potential success of the merged entity and the anticipated benefits of the acquisition. However, this conviction is somewhat amiss in today’s market. It is speculated that this missing confidence is rooted in the memories of last year’s economic slump and the accompanying hesitations.

The Horizon of Hope

While the present might seem a bit bleak for M&A enthusiasts, the future isn’t devoid of hope. The economic indicators suggest some semblance of stability might be on its way. The key question remains, what would be the catalyst to jumpstart M&A activities once again?

Inflation, which has been a significant concern for businesses and investors alike, is showing signs of settling down. This stabilization might signal the end of rate hikes, which have been a constant thorn in the side of businesses contemplating mergers or acquisitions.

Furthermore, the pent-up demand for M&A has been accumulating. Over the past nine to twelve months, multiple corporations have been on the lookout for potential deals. While the current environment has led to many of these deals being shelved, it is only a matter of time before the right catalyst sets the dealmaking ball rolling again.

In Conclusion

Mergers and acquisitions are more than just transactions; they are a reflection of the confidence and future outlook of the market. While the current phase might be experiencing a lull, the undercurrents suggest that this is temporary. The landscape of M&A is vast, and with the right triggers, the next golden age of dealmaking might just be around the corner.

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Chris Goodgame, Managing Director in Alvarez and Marsal’s Transaction Advisory practice:
“This morning’s data showing a marginal decrease in cross-border and domestic M&A activity, with 58
transactions fewer than the 508 in Q1, suggests that doubts about the economy may still linger,
despite inflation beginning to ease.

Valuation dislocations, higher debt financing costs and growing risk aversion amid an uncertain
outlook have hampered dealmaking activity following last year’s slump, and larger transactions
remain few and far between. These complex and higher-stake deals demand alignment between
several different parties and a level of conviction from buyers that is currently lacking in the market,
which has already led to several failed processes.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, it remains unclear whether an uptick in deal flow will materialise
in the coming months. The market is seemingly waiting for a catalyst to restart activity, the key
question being what this catalyst is.

However, there are indeed some signs of improvement on the macroeconomic front, with inflation
beginning to stabilise suggesting the end of the rate hiking cycle is in sight. It remains to be seen
whether this will be sufficient to release the pent-up demand for M&A that has been building over the
past nine to twelve months.”

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