Forget the rebound, many companies see double dip

Contact: Brenon Daly

According to many big tech acquirers, the rest of 2011 is shaping up to look an awful lot like 2009. From forecasts for declining valuations to indications of a dramatically more conservative approach to M&A, there was a bearishness in the responses to our special midyear survey of corporate development executives that hasn’t been seen since we were mired in the Great Recession. (See the full report.)

And while the responses to our most recent survey may not have hit the same lows of two years ago, many views began to approach those gloomy levels. In any case, it was a dramatic reversal from the relatively robust forecast given at the beginning of 2011. Taken altogether, the responses to our most recent survey indicate that there’s a growing concern about a recessionary ‘double dip’ that threatens to stall dealmaking for the rest of the year.

Just one-third (32%) of the corporate development executives we surveyed last month indicated that they expected their company to pick up the pace of M&A in the second half of 2011, down half (52%) from those who predicted an acceleration for full-year 2011 in our survey back in December. Meanwhile, the number who projected a slowdown more than doubled to 18% from 7%. Another way to think about it is that nearly one out of five people told us that their company won’t be as busy in the remainder of the year as it was in the first half of 2011.

Projected change in M&A activity

Period Increase Stay the same Decrease
Mid-2011 for remainder of year 32% 50% 18%
December 2010 for 2011 52% 41% 7%
December 2009 for 2010 68% 27% 5%
December 2008 for 2009 44% 33% 23%

Source: The 451 Group Tech Corporate Development Outlook Survey

Deals on the rebound

Contact: Brenon Daly

More than 100 people dialed into our webinar earlier today, joining us in a discussion of whether the tech M&A rebound is real. And while not everyone agreed that deals will flow smoothly – and voluminously – in 2010, there was a shared sense that the M&A recession of 2009 has mostly lifted. Still, a rebound is one thing, while recovery is something else entirely.

We have definitely seen the pace of dealmaking pick up so far in 2010. We noted earlier that we tallied 60% more deals in the first workweek of this year than during the same period last year, and both tech investment bankers and corporate development executives have forecast a busier year for M&A in 2010. If you’d like to get a copy of our slides from this morning’s webinar, send us an email.

And the Golden Tombstone goes to …

Contact: Brenon Daly

We survey corporate development executives every year to get a sense of their shopping plans for the next 12 months. We’ll have a full report on the survey when we return from our holiday break in early January, but the headline finding is that two-thirds of the respondents expect the pace of M&A at their firms to pick up in 2010, compared to just 5% who see the rate tailing off. We would note that bullishness is echoed by technology investment bankers, who we also recently surveyed. (See our full report on the tech bankers’ survey.)

In addition to getting their outlook for the coming year, we also ask corporate development executives to pick a single deal that stood out to them as the most significant transaction of the year. The 2009 winner? Oracle’s still-pending $7.4bn acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Larry Ellison’s big gamble on hardware received twice as many votes as the second-place transaction, Hewlett-Packard’s reach for 3Com last month. (HP won the award last year for its purchase of services giant EDS.) Third place was claimed by EMC’s aggressive grab of Data Domain.

From our perspective, it’s fitting that Oracle’s purchase gets the coveted Golden Tombstone for 2009. (As an aside, it’s unintentionally accurate to be referring to ‘tombstones’ in connection with deals this year, if just because the M&A market was as quiet as a cemetery.) After all, 2009 has been characterized by transactions that are cheaper but take longer to close than in years past. Oracle, which announced the purchase of Sun in April but still hasn’t gotten full approval for it, is paying just 0.6x trailing sales for the faded tech giant. It was that kind of year for M&A, and one we’ll gladly put behind us. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2010 when we return from a much-needed break.

Golden Tombstone winners

Year Transaction
2009 Oracle’s $7.4bn purchase of Sun Microsystems
2008 HP’s $13.9bn acquisition of EDS
2007 Citrix’s $500m XenSource buy

Source: The 451 Corporate Development Outlook Survey

Corporate dealmaking

Contact: Brenon Daly

Since our annual survey of corporate development executives is currently being filled out by those dealmakers, we thought we’d take a quick look at business there. (Note: If you are a corporate development officer and would like to take part in our survey, please email me and I will send you a copy. Those who participate will get a full look at the results, plus additional comparisons with the previous year’s findings. See that report here.)

At first glance, corporate spending looks pretty healthy, roughly matching the levels of the previous three years. (For our purposes, we searched our M&A KnowledgeBase for acquisitions announced this year by companies that trade on the Nasdaq or NYSE.) Our first observation is that US companies are pretty much the only ones doing any shopping. Their spending accounts for three-quarters of all tech M&A spending that we’ve tracked this year, compared to about half of the total in each of the past two years.

However, we would quickly add that (not surprisingly) deal flow has been drying up as the year has gone along. In the third quarter, the total value of acquisitions by US publicly traded acquirers hit just $16bn, down from $144bn in the second quarter and $38bn in the first quarter (second-quarter results were inflated because the four largest deals of the year, including three mammoth communications transactions, were announced in the summer). In the next week, we’ll tally what corporate development executives predict for 2009 and have a report on that.

Acquisitions by US listed companies

Period Deal volume Deal value
January-November 2005 945 $204bn
January-November 2006 1,084 $251bn
January-November 2007 961 $193bn
January-November 2008 793 $218bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase