Where did you go, LBO?

Contact: Brenon Daly

We finished counting all of the nickels and dimes from last year’s M&A spending and, as expected, we’re looking at a rather paltry total. Overall, acquirers across the globe announced tech deals worth $302bn in 2008, down 30% from the total in 2007. (We explore the reasons for the decline – and what it will mean for dealmaking this year – more fully in our 2009 M&A Outlook.)

Perhaps the most interesting point about M&A last year, which goes a long way toward explaining the one-third decline, is the fact that we saw a sharp contrast in the dealmaking activity of strategic and financial acquirers. For the most part, corporate shoppers continued to buy, with the number of dollars spent dropping ‘just’ 12% from the previous year.

On the other hand, PE shops slashed their dealmaking by 77%, spending roughly the same amount on tech LBOs last year that they did in 2004. And given the state of the current credit market – along with some of the painfully ill-advised bets they made on portfolio companies when the markets were smiling – we can’t imagine that situation will unwind enough to spur much activity in tech LBOs in 2009. Indeed, nearly nine out of 10 corporate development officers we surveyed in mid-December said they expected even less ‘competition’ in deals from PE firms this year.

Annual deal flow

Year Strategic acquisitions Financial acquisitions Total
2008 $275bn $27bn $302bn
2007 $314bn $118bn $432bn
2006 $359bn $98bn $457bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase