Survey indicates economic concerns clouding deals

Contact: Brenon Daly

Even more than pricing, the uncertain economic outlook is getting in the way of closing deals, according to a survey by 451 Research and Morrison & Foerster of more than 300 executives, corporate development officials, lawyers/bankers and other M&A figures. More than seven out of 10 respondents indicated the uncertainty is the primary reason that M&A spending is running essentially where it was in the recession-plagued year of 2009, snapping two straight years of higher spending on deals. See our full report on the survey.

In the survey – which was sent out in early October, after the close of the third quarter – fully seven out of 10 (71%) respondents said the questionable outlook for growth in the US was a ‘strong’ contributor to the sluggish M&A market. Another way to look at it: Six times as many people (71% vs. 12%) said the precariousness of the US economy is crimping deal flow compared with those that saw no impact. Market forecasters predict third-quarter revenue for S&P 500 companies will actually come in lower than Q3 2011 levels, which would be the first year-on-year sales decline in three years.

Those concerns about growth appear justified, since many of the bellwether tech vendors reported results for the third quarter. For instance, a slump in third-quarter sales at Intel is almost certain to leave revenue for 2012 below the level from last year.

The chip giant followed up a 5.5% decline in sales during the July-September period with a forecast for a scant 1% revenue increase in the final quarter of this year. Against that backdrop of anemic sales, Intel has scaled back its M&A program. In the first half of 2012, Intel announced a half-dozen transactions, including four of them with disclosed values of more than $100m. Since midyear, it has done just three small purchases.

Similarly, Citrix – which has lost nearly one-quarter of its market value since mid-2012 – has done just one small purchase since then. In the first half of 2012, Citrix announced four acquisitions valued, collectively, at more than $500m. For more on activity and forecasts for the M&A market, see our full report on the survey.

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