Didn't it seem like forever since we've seen a blockbuster transaction in the M&A realm? Like that in 2016 somebody had built a fence around mergers that started several feet off the ground, so small- to mid-sized deals could fit through, but the big transactions found themselves stymied?
Certainly the statistics back up that analysis. Year to date in 2016, there have been a whopping 3,162 M&A transactions announced, according to data from The Deal. Compared with the 1,962 at this point in 2015, that's a 61% bulge. Vibrant market, right?
But the dollar value paints a different picture: announced deals thus far this year have a cumulative value of $1.1 trillion, versus a little over $1.2 trillion at this point in 2015. Contracting market?
What the data said is what that data has said all year: The M&A market is strong, vibrant, robust. Except there at the top end of the food chain. Where it's been a little more hit or miss.
Given the features of the market - the global economic lethargy, the capital markets' volatility, overhangs like the Brexit - and it's no wonder that the governors of the big cap deals have tread carefully around the M&A possibilities. "The top end of the market is what gets squeezed when we enter these moments," Michael Kendall, partner at Goodwin Procter, the Boston based law firm, said in an interview. "But there's no evidence of malaise in the middle market space."
While sightings of blockbuster deals may be as elusive as seeing Sasquatch, there are the occasional instance where the beast rears its head. Last week featured one of them: Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) said it would wrap up Linkedin Corp. (LNKD) for $26.2 billion. (The prior week's leading deal amounted to a relatively piddling $2.5 billion.) That ranked as the seventh largest M&A transaction announced this year, by dollar value. (Though, in fact, what ranked as the biggest announced transaction, Honeywell International Inc. (HON) buying United Technologies Corp. (UTX) has been called off.)
Microsoft has had an uneven record with its M&A transactions over the year. And the software giant is paying $196 a share, a 50% premium, for the social media site. But mostly analysts gave cautious approval to the deal, as it recognized that Microsoft has to find growth engines.
And, at the least, the transaction represented something of a resuscitation of what had been a sleepy market. "There are countervailing forces at work in this market," Kendall said, pointing to the Federal Reserve's decision this week to forestall any change in the interest rate environment. On one hand, "the Fed's decision is a confirmation of the fact that we're in uncertain economic times," Kendall said. On the other hand, "it provides some certainty that debt will continue to be cheap and available.
"If I try to project the outcome of the whole year, I wouldn't expect to get to the 2015 highs," he added. "I also don't expect a significant drop in activity."
In the second largest deal last week, Symantec Corp. (SYMC) said it would buy Blue Coat Systems Inc. for $4.6 billion. It marked an instance of a financial sponsor - in this case, Bain Capital LLC - exiting an investment to a strategic buyer, and scuttling indications that Bain was planning to bring Blue Coat public.
ASML Holding NV, the maker of lithography systems for the semiconductor industry, said it would buy Taiwan based Hermes Microvision Inc. for just over $3 billion, a premium of about 31%.
The transaction reignited hopes that more transactions would be coming in the semiconductor sector, which last year recorded $100 billion in M&A transaction value.
Stone Canyon Industrials LLC, an industrial holding company, said it would buy BWAY Corp., a packaging company that is one of the largest producers of aerosol cans, paint cans and plastic drums. The purchase price was $2.4 billion. The seller, Platinum Equity LLC, another financial sponsor, bought BWAY in 2012 for $1.24 billion, though the company also made some acquisitions during its time as a portfolio company.