Q2 earnings to shape Q3 M&A

-Contact Thomas Rasmussen, Xiaoyue Ma

Is there a correlation between the equity markets and M&A? Anecdotal evidence sure seems to suggest so. After a hot start to the second quarter for both the stock market and deal flow, tech M&A slowed as the Nasdaq cooled in recent weeks. In fact, spending on deals in June was less than half the level that it was in both April and May. Many would-be buyers now seem to be looking to earnings season – both for a report on second-quarter results and the outlook for the balance of the year – to determine if they’ll be going shopping again. We have heard this throughout the year from companies that have both the means and the desire to shop, but have refrained from any meaningful deals because of the uncertain outlook.

That sentiment was clearly evident when we tallied the results of our June survey of corporate development executives, who are pretty much the only acquirers in today’s market. When we analyzed the findings and separated respondents at large firms from those at smaller ones, almost two-thirds of large buyers predicted they will be more acquisitive in the second half of 2009. This stands in stark contrast to the results of our survey conducted last December, in which large acquirers were significantly more bearish on M&A, with less than one-third of respondents indicating they would do more purchases. We should note that the June survey was done when the Nasdaq was trading at its highest level since last October, while the December survey was done at a significantly more bearish time.

Given that there hasn’t been a raft of negative pre-announcements by tech vendors so far, second-quarter results may well come in somewhat stronger than many expect. In fact, tech bellwethers IBM and Google, up 20% and 30% year-to-date, respectively, will report after the bell Thursday and the overall consensus seems to be positive. Big Blue recently reiterated its fiscal year forecasts of at least $9.20 and $10-$11 in earnings per share for 2009 and 2010, respectively. If the tech earnings season does indeed go smoothly, we would anticipate companies to pick up their pace of acquisitions.

Drawing the line between M&A and the equity markets

Period M&A spending Nasdaq median Nasdaq median % change from prior month
October 2008 $20bn 1,711 N/A
November 2008 $13bn 1,532 -10.47%
December 2008 $7bn 1,531 -0.05%
January 2009 $3bn 1,521 -0.70%
February 2009 $2bn 1,494 -1.72%
March 2009 $4bn 1,444 -3.35%
April 2009 $21bn 1,646 13.97%
May 2009 $17bn 1,731 5.17%
June 2009 $10bn 1,832 5.84%
July 2009 N/A 1,787 -2.45%

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase and the Nasdaq