Talk was cheap in 2009

Contact: Brenon Daly, Thomas Rasmussen

We are currently tallying up deal credits for our annual league tables. Although we’re still a few weeks away from revealing our overall rankings of the investment banks, we have pulled out a couple of interesting trends. One observation that underscores just how brutal M&A was last year is that the premium valuation that sellers typically garnered by using an adviser got all but erased in many sectors. Overall, the numbers make it indisputably clear that 2009 was a buyer’s market.

The specific valuations vary across sectors, but the software industry stands as fairly representative of this trend. In 2007, selling companies that used an adviser garnered, on average, 3.3 times trailing 12-month (TTM) sales while selling companies that didn’t use an adviser received 2.1x TTM sales. The gulf narrowed in 2008 (2.4x TTM sales for advised deals vs. 1.9x TTM sales in transactions without advisers), and essentially disappeared last year (1.4x TTM sales for advised deals vs. 1.3x TTM sales in transactions without advisers). Again, we don’t think the trend reflects the quality or value of sell-side investment banking advice as much as it indicates how few buyers were actually in the market last year. After all, it doesn’t matter how silver-tongued investment bankers may be if they’re speaking to empty chairs around the negotiating table.