Last year we saw a surge in big M&A deals, and if the financial markets hold we’re likely to see even more $10 billion+ deals. But unlike 2014, when acquirers outperformed non-acquiring companies by 5.9 percentage points, there could be a lot more underperforming copycat deals from companies that are just trying not to get left behind.
“Market confidence is riding high, even for the complicated larger mergers, but with the more apparent inorganic growth opportunities already taken, we may see some failures making headlines in the near future with the latecomers falling off the crest of the merger-wave,” writes Tower Watson’s M&A practice lead in EMEA Steve Allan, who highlights four trends to watch out for this year.
Large deals will continue to gain momentum: Towers Watson
Large deals ($1 billion or larger) increased from 120 in 2013 to 176 in 2014, and mega-deals ($10 billion or larger) jumped from four to 12, and Allan thinks the trend will continue. Even with expectations of a Fed rate hike sometime this year, corporate cash balances are high and interest rates are still historically very low.
But just because there is a lot of activity doesn’t mean the deals are going to turn out well. Although he doesn’t mention any particular regions or sectors to be wary of, Allan warns that by the end of the year we may have a new poster child for how not to do M&A.
Financial services M&A to pick up in 2015: Towers Watson
One new trend that Allan expects to be significant is an increase in financial services M&A now as “the age of ‘banker bashing’ fades away,” he writes, but he expects pharmaceuticals to continue driving global deal volume. While many deals last year looked like they were just financial gimmicks (corporate tax inversions being a prime example), Allan says that pharmaceutical deals really are mostly rooted in good fundamentals.
He also expects Asian acquirers to continue putting up the best results (last year they beat their regional index by 24.7 percentage points). If anything, Allan says that they may pull even further ahead of European and North American acquirers, which beat their respective regional indexes by 4.1 and and 2.0 percentage points.