Global deal volume reaches $705bn

BY Richard Summerfield

Global mergers & acquisitions activity has been on the up, according to Dealogic, with consecutive year-on-year increases for the last four years. And 2017 may prove to be even busier. There have been $705bn worth of deals announced in the year to date, marking the first time since the onset of the financial crisis that the $700bn mark had been surpassed in same YTD period.

One of the major forces driving activity has been firms pursuing cross-border deals. Such transactions reached $288.4bn in 2017 YTD, up from $144.9bn in 2012 and the highest YTD level since the $324.7bn recorded in 2007. The US accounted for $95.8bn worth of overseas acquisitions, the highest YTD level on record. The $31.4bn offer for Swiss biotech company Actelion by American healthcare group Johnson & Johnson is the largest announced deal o date.

From a sectoral perspective, the oil & gas industry saw the most activity, with a record $96.7bn worth of announced deals to date. Of this total, $52.4bn and $9.4bn occurred in the domestic sectors of the US and Canada respectively.

The second most targeted industry was the healthcare sector, with $95.9bn,and technology was third with $87.1bn.

Morgan Stanley topped the adviser rankings in the YTD. Though the firm’s share of total deals fell from 22.0 percent to 20.2 percent, it was involved in $142.7bn of deals, far outstripping Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which had an 18.5 percent share – up from 14.4 percent in 2016 – and a total deal value of $130.3bn. Citi Bank advised on 17.6 percent of transactions YTD, up from 13.2 percent in 2016 for a total value of $123.9bn. Goldman Sachs, which topped the global advisory rankings this time last year, suffered the most in the early part of 2017. Last year the firm advised on nearly a third of deals; this year, however, it fell to fourth place, with its share of deals nearly halved to 16.7 percent, having been engaged on $118.2bn of transactions in the YTD.

Report: Dealogic M&A StatShot

AI is now the focus for UK FinTech startups, reveals new report

BY Fraser Tennant

FinTech startups in the UK are increasingly focusing on building smarter and faster machines as well as gaining a better understanding of the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to solve customer problems, according to a new report by PwC and Startupbootcamp.

In ‘Start-up view: a year in FinTech’, based on data from Startupbootcamp’s FinTech accelerator programme and UK FinTech deals in 2016, the report’s authors reveal a major cultural shift over the past 12 months and cite Enterprise Bot – virtual assistants that can be used by banks to improve customer service – as a good example of how AI and machine learning is being used to solve real-life customer issues.

Among its key findings, the report notes that: (i) UK-based FinTech startups made up 34 percent of all applications to Startupbootcamp in 2016 (up from 22 percent from 2015), demonstrating the constant growth of innovation and wealth of talent in the UK; (ii) nine of top 20 UK FinTech deals were completed post-EU referendum, with investment totalling $368m; and (iii) the UK’s FinTech sector has continued to progress following the EU referendum, with FinTech ‘bridges’ being built between London and China, South Korea, Singapore, India and Australia.

“Despite political, economic and financial uncertainty causing people to believe FinTech might be derailed, we have yet to see any real impact," said Francisco Lorca, managing director of Startupbootcamp FinTech London. “This year, we have seen the sector’s entrepreneurs, including the Startupbootcamp FinTech 2016 cohort, consistently proving that they have genuinely transformative ideas to offer – and that these ideas are commercially viable.”

However, despite all the entrepreneurial spirit and transformative ideas, the report does make clear that investors are less keen to focus on this area, with many saying that ‘it remains too soon to invest in smarter, faster machines'.

 “While questions remain on how big players can measure their success in FinTech, the reality is investment in innovation is now necessary for financial services companies to keep pace with competitors both within and outside their own industry," said Steve Davies, EMEA FinTech leader at PwC. “As the UK’s position in Europe post Brexit becomes clearer, startups from across the world will continue to travel here to work with international investors, partner with leading financial firms and develop under a forward thinking regulator.”

Noting that the UK is likely to remain a global FinTech centre despite Brexit, Mr Lorca concluded: “One can only imagine what will come next, but both incumbents and startups should be prepared to embrace change.”

Report: ‘The start-up view: a year in FinTech’

EU to introduce measures to block "politically-motivated" foreign investment

BY James Williams

Due to concerns over “politically-motivated” takeovers, the European Union (EU) has proposed a range of measures that it says will require foreign investors to rethink their investments in Europe.

The EU action is designed to address takeovers in sectors that three countries – Germany, France and Italy – have said could harm Europe's strategic interests, with concerns arising that technological proficiency is ‘leaking abroad’.

The proposals by the EU, which already has the power to block takeovers on antitrust grounds, would give the EU further powers to scrutinise investments in the US if they are deemed to be of strategic importance, from both an economic and a security perspective.

According to the European Commission's (EC) industry department, investments in sectors such as defence and transport infrastructure, as well as sectors which utilise critical and cutting-edge technologies, will be under the microscope. The EC department has also said that deals which it feels could conceivably risk “economic prosperity” will also be closely scrutinised.

Furthermore, the proposals would give the EU the power to block takeovers by any company whose motivation is considered to be "just for the purpose of disposing its overcapacity" – a determination which could well apply to sectors such as steel production which, for a number of years, has seen Europe accuse China, for example, of dumping under-priced goods.

Such a blocking mechanism may also apply to takeovers of EU companies by an EU-based subsidiary of a foreign firm, says the EU, or even in cases of "infiltration of the management with individuals from non-EU countries" who have the means to access data and technology.

Among the recent deals which have raised concerns and prompted the EU’s intervention is the $5bn acquisition of the German robotics maker Kuka by China’s Midea. Other German companies, such as Kion, Putzmeister and KraussMaffei , have also come under Chinese ownership in recent years.

“A growing number of non-EU investors were buying up European technologies for the strategic objectives of their home country”, said the economy ministers of France and Germany and Italy's industry minister this week. This is despite the barriers investors face when trying to lay their hands on assets in other countries.

For the proposals to get the go-ahead, all departments within the EC would need to give their approval. However, at a time of relentless euroscepticism, the proposals suggest that the EU “would maintain the right to allow or deny a takeover even after EU vetting”.

News: EU plans measures to block foreign takeovers of strategic firms

Driverless tech the catalyst for Intel’s $15.3bn acquisition

BY Richard Summerfield

Intel Corp announced yesterday that it was to acquire Israeli driverless technology company Mobileye in a deal worth $15.3bn. The deal is another show of confidence in the nascent driverless automobile space.

According to a statement announcing the deal, Mobileye’s shareholders will receive $63.54 per share in cash, making the deal the biggest ever acquisition of an Israeli technology company. The deal is expected to close in the next nine months, pending regulatory approval and certain other closing conditions. Mobileye’s shares closed at $47.27 on Friday in New York.

Once the merger has been complete, Mobileye’s current chief technology officer and co-founder, Professor Amnon Shashua, will lead Intel’s autonomous driving division, which will be based in Israel. Doug Davis, Intel’s senior vice president will oversee how Mobileye and Intel work together across the whole company and will report to Professor Shashua going forward.

Intel estimates the vehicle systems, data and services market will be worth as much as $70bn by 2030. The deal for Mobileye will allow them to position themselves at the forefront of the emerging – and disruptive – driverless technology.

Intel, synonymous with personal computers, has seen its standing negatively impacted by the proliferation of smart devices, which have overtaken PCs in popularity and usage.

“This acquisition is a great step forward for our shareholders, the automotive industry and consumers,” said Brian Krzanich, Intel's chief executive. “Intel provides critical foundational technologies for autonomous driving including plotting the car’s path and making real-time driving decisions. Mobileye brings the industry’s best automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers. Together, we can accelerate the future of autonomous driving with improved performance in a cloud-to-car solution at a lower cost for automakers.”

The acquisition of Mobileye comes after a period of cooperation between the two companies; Intel – along with Delphi Autmotive – began working on an affordable driverless car with Mobileye in November 2016.

“We expect the growth towards autonomous driving to be transformative. It will provide consumers with safer, more flexible, and less costly transportation options, and provide incremental business model opportunities for our automaker customers,” said Ziv Aviram, co-founder, president and chief executive of Mobileye . “By pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms. Together, we will provide an attractive value proposition for the automotive industry.”

News: Intel's $15 billion purchase of Mobileye shakes up driverless car sector

Divestments set to soar across the globe, suggests new study

BY James Williams

Geopolitical disruptions such as a volatile business landscape and regulatory upheavals are driving companies to pursue divestments in ever-increasing numbers, according to EY’s ‘2017 Global Corporate Divestment Study’.

The study, based on a survey of more than 900 corporate executives worldwide, notes that the uptick in divestments is very much being driven by geographical footprints, with companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) reporting that regional political instability (cited by 81 percent) and Brexit (cited by 73 percent) among the top issues.

Across the globe, 57 percent of multinationals in the Americas have indicated that their divestment decisions are motivated by technological change, with 84 percent also focused on regulatory changes. Globally, 56 percent of all survey respondents said they are more likely to divest as a result of an unpredictable landscape.

Further EY findings include: (i) 82 percent of companies said that macroeconomic volatility will increase the likelihood of them divesting over the next year; (ii) 48 percent of companies believe that tax-related divestment challenges have increased in the last 12 months; and (iii) 88 percent of companies have indicated that advanced analytics would help them make faster and better divestment decisions.

“In many cases, we are observing impulsive divestment decisions by companies feeling pressured by external factors to take quick action, often at the cost of realising maximum value," said Steve Krouskos, EY Global Vice Chair – Transaction Advisory Services. “The impact of too much speed on sale price is significant, and should motivate companies to be strategic and measured by prioritising value when navigating a sale process.”

The study also reveals that the current dealmaking is leading to senior executives craving “an information advantage”, with those not planning to divest in the next two years now looking to “evaluate their portfolios more rigorously”. Furthermore, 53 percent of executives made clear that understanding the business impact of new disruptive forces is among their “key portfolio review challenges”, and some even said it is “their biggest challenge”.

Paul Hammes, EY’s Global Divestment Leader, concluded: “We are seeing companies flee geographies because of short-term fears and wind up with suboptimal valuations on their business. Our survey finds that nearly half of companies plan to divest in the next two years. A divestment can empower a company to put capital to better use, enable a leaner operating model and enhance shareholder value.”

Report: Can divesting help you capitalize on disruption? – Global Corporate Divestment Study 2017

©2001-2017 Financier Worldwide Ltd. All rights reserved.