Deals belie uncertainty

BY Richard Summerfield

2016 was a challenging but rewarding year for global M&A, according to a new report from Mergermarket.

Thanks in part to seismic shifts in global politics – namely the victory for populism in both the US and the UK – a decline in dealmaking volume may have been anticipated last year, and yet 2016 saw a remarkable amount of activity.

“Despite a series of political shockwaves during 2016 including the UK’s Brexit and Donald Trump’s surprise victory, global M&A fared well," said Mergermarket’s EMEA research editor, Katharine Dennys. “Global M&A managed to reach its third highest deal value since 2007. 2017 remains uncertain especially with the president-elect pledging to clamp down on high profile acquisitions such as the AT&T/Time Warner deal that was announced in October.”

The US was the most attractive investment destination, in terms of both deal value and volume last year, with 4951 deals announced in the jurisdiction worth $1.5 trillion, the second highest annual value recorded in the US since Mergermarket began keeping records in 2001. This continued activity came despite deal value dropping 22.9 percent compared to 2015. Indeed, 2016 saw 347 fewer deals announced. In total, 47.5 percent of global deal activity was targeted at the US.

Another notable trend through 2016 was the emergence of China as an oversea acquirer. Chinese companies announced 258 outbound deals last year worth $185.3bn, up markedly from $49.1bn in 2015.

European M&A saw a dip in activity, however, down 10.3 percent. Yet, despite this, inbound M&A into Europe reached an all-time high, with 1280 deals worth $410.7bn announced in 2016, up 35.6 percent compared to 2015.

Looking ahead, 2017 will likely continue to be an unstable year geopolitically. The issue of Brexit negotiations will continue to loom over Europe. Elections in France and Germany too will likely have an impact on European focused activity. The nascent Trump administration will no doubt have a significant impact on global dealmaking.

Elsewhere, the Chinese overseas deal rush may come to an abrupt end this year following the announcement that the Chinese government will scrutinise overseas transactions worth more than $2bn in an effort to reduce capital outflows that are a drain on foreign exchange reserves.

Report: Global and regional M&A: Q1-Q4 2016

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