Return Of Merger Mania; Thoughts On M&A: Halcyon

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Amid the blue-chip rally and divergence in the NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:NDAQ), CNBC’s Kate Kelly speaks to John Bader, Halcyon Asset Management chairman & CIO, about the M&A environment and his current investment strategy. Bader also shares his thoughts on investor activism.

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Return of merger mania: Halcyon CIO


in a volatile and heady market, kate, i like to be focused on strategies that are not likely to be correlated with the broader equity markets. in particular, right now we’re especially focused on opportunities, number one mergers, a return of merger mania, the first four months of this year have called for — we’ve seen ten deals over $10 billion. that’s more than we’ve seen in the first four months since 2007. and so that’s the first area that really interests me. the second kind of event driven opportunity that interests me especially is one that i like to call corporate pro activism. what’s that? well, you’ve all heard about activists and much talk in the press and on television about the likes of carl icahn and bill ackman, pressuring companies to restructure, to sell underperforming assets, to spin them off, to distribute cash to shareholders through self-tenders or special dividends or what have you, to create real estate investment trusts. but there’s an untold story. and that untold story relates to the fact that in board rooms across corporate america companies are taking the same kinds of restructuring actions that activists are calling for in the absence of them being there. we’ve seen a real divergence between the larry finks, the marty liptons who worry about things like short termism, asking activists to make a move to bring a short term, but in the long run not be the right thing for the company’s long track record and organic growth. there’s that and the activist community you cited. you’re trying to argue on blafts companies it sounds like they’re trying to make these moves in their time as appropriate and the activists should lay off a little bit? i wasn’t opining if the activist should lay off at all. i think a lot of companies are trying to do the right thing. i think they’re soberly debating the difference between short and long term issues. they are restructuring themselves i believe faster than ever before. and what this is doing, is it’s creating event driven opportunities because every one of these restructuring events often results in a move in the stock price. and if some of that is a little bit more in the short term i’m not sure that that’s bad. let’s talk about the m&a landscape. yentered in the 1980s. ton of activism, ton of deals. i’m curious, for example, on record in terms of your filings number one holding in late december was Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC). talk to me about the company in how optimistic are you the deal general. will go through and the possibility of an at&t/directv deal affect that or the landscape in that sector? well, first of all, i would say that time warner is an example of a blue chip asset, world-class assets, that attracted the attention not of one but two bidders. we’re seeing a real return of multibidder situations and that’s pretty exciting. we all saw that Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) has agreed to divest significant numbers of subscribers to charter communications, which certainly should facilitate the deal. in terms of at&t and DIRECTV (NASDAQ:DTV), i haven’t personally spent as much time on it at this juncture, but that may be a more difficult deal. AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) does have a lot of assets that are analogous to assets that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) has, some 5.7 million i believe, which is a lot more than maybe people realize and it’s not clear whether that’s as easy a deal as the time warner cable deal.

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