Big buyers sit out Q3 uncertainty

With the third quarter in the books, we get our first glimpse of the impact that the unprecedented upheaval on Wall Street is having on tech M&A. Over the past three months, the value of tech deals dropped about one-third from year-ago levels, sinking from $58bn to $37bn.

The falloff was even more pronounced at the high end of the market: only six deals worth more than $1bn were announced during the July-September period, down from 11 deals worth more than $1bn during the same period last year and 22 deals worth more than $1bn during the third quarter of 2006. (Along those lines, IBM has acquired just one public company so far this year, down from three last year.)

There are a number of reasons for the muted deal flow, starting with the barren conditions in the credit market. That knocked the number of leveraged buyouts from 36 in the third quarter of last year to just 12 this year.

Strategic acquirers, too, faced their own difficulties in striking deals as they got clubbed on the Nasdaq. Consider Google, which saw its shares bottom out at the end of the quarter at a three-year low. So far this year, the online ad giant has inked just four deals, down from 14 during the same period last year. Or Citrix, which recently saw its shares reach their lowest level since mid-2005. The enterprise software company has scaled back its acquisitions, picking up a product line and a tiny German company so far this year, after closing five deals during the first three quarters of 2007. See full report.

Third-quarter deal flow

Period Deal volume Deal value
Q3 2005 811 $87bn
Q3 2006 1,030 $102bn
Q3 2007 822 $58bn
Q3 2008 691 $37bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase