M&A Check: Deal Volumes Suffering in 2019, as Xerox Reportedly Makes Play For HP

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We're more than three quarters through 2019, and the year in M&A has been what it was expected to be: slow.

So say Goldman Sachs analysts, with their report coming as Xerox (XRX) - Get Report  is mulling a bid for Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) - Get Report  that could value the iconic imaging company at $35 billion. 

Global announced-deal volumes for October were down 9% from the year-earlier month, the analysts wrote in a Tuesday note. "Broad-based weakness in U.S. deal activity more than offset continued momentum in European strategic deal-making," they said. 

The bank did note that global deal volumes year-to-date are down 8%, with U.S. volumes up 7%.

But that's still a far cry from 2018's total volume increase of 45%, according to research from Dealogic and law firm White & Case. And the uptick in volumes for the year in the U.S. has been lead by large-cap deals, which have seen volumes increase 80% year-to-date.

Those large deals, while at times reflective of confidence in economic growth, can often be isolated transactions with very particular strategies. The potential Xerox-HP tie-up is aimed at getting XRX some exposure over and above printers, as HPQ has a sizable software business. 

A large increase in U.S. deal volumes would be unlikely since 2018's M&A frenzy was driven largely by the reduction in corporate taxes, to 21% from 35%, set by Congress and the White House.

Falling interest rates have likely supported activity, as some buyers, especially financial buyers like private-equity firms, use debt to finance large chunks of acquisitions.

And "we saw a shift in deal activity away from strategic to financial-sponsor deals, with sponsor deals declining only 3% vs. an 11% fall for strategic deals," the Goldman analysts said. 

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