We wrote earlier this week that Bank of America’s pending purchase of Merrill Lynch gives the Charlotte, North Carolina-based giant its first real opportunity to pick up M&A advisory work in the tech market. Well, that assessment goes double for Barclays, which plucked Lehman Brothers’ banking unit out of the rubble, and it goes triple for whichever bank – if any – snags perennial tech powerhouse Morgan Stanley. (Reports on Thursday indicated that Morgan Stanley was holding talks with Wachovia, as well as considering a sale to a European institution.)
Of course, the tech M&A business is just a side-note in the unprecedented consolidation of investment banks that’s played out this week. But it’s one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Deal flow in the tech sector has approached a half-trillion dollars in each of the past two years. Even during an off-year like 2008, we’ve already seen some $250bn worth of transactions, more than the full-year total in 2004. That’s a lot of banking fees.
To be sure, there will be a substantial amount of disruption in the tech banking business as the new owners integrate the formerly independent investment banks. (For instance, LogMeIn, which filed to go public in January, still has Lehman listed as its lead underwriter. Lehman’s new owner, Barclays, is hardly known for its equity underwriter business, much less underwriting tech offerings.) But at the very least, the acquiring banks picked up the opportunity to be relevant in a market where deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars are going to get done each year. And, thanks to these historic times, they got the chance on the cheap.