BY Richard Summerfield
Domestic mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the US is expected to pick up in 2018, following a fairly subdued 2017, according to a new report from Deloitte.
Deal activity in 2017 has been largely stymied by economic, political and regulatory uncertainty, as well as market volatility, and unrealistic valuations. However, according to respondents to Deloitte’s fifth M&A trends survey, many of these fears will begin to diminish moving forward, resulting in increased dealmaking activity and increased deal values.
Both in the number of deals and the size of transactions, Deloitte expects 2018 to be a bumper year for M&A. Of the 1000 US corporate dealmakers and private equity firms surveyed for ‘The State of the Deal: M&A Trends 2018’ report, around 68 percent of corporate executives and 76 percent of private equity leaders expect to see an increase in deal volume over the next 12 months. Additionally, most respondents believe deal size will either increase or stay the same in 2018, compared with deals brokered in 2017.
Technology-based dealmaking was recognised as the biggest potential driver of corporate M&A transactions, rising from 6 percent in the spring 2016 survey to 20 percent in this survey.
"There are strong signals that corporations and private equity firms are targeting bigger deals and anticipating brisker activity in 2018," said Russell Thomson, managing partner of Deloitte's US M&A services practice. "The appetite for technologies like machine learning, robotics, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics is large and growing. We're seeing some organisations buy smaller tech companies to enable strategic growth and others — typically companies well outside of the tech sector — actively looking to converge their businesses with tech companies to achieve marked transformation."
Away from the tech space, expanding customer bases in existing markets, and expanding and diversifying products and services, are set to be leading drivers of M&A deals. Among other positive factors, the Deloitte report notes that cash reserves are up significantly for potential acquirers, and that the primary intended use of that cash is for acquisitions.
Divestitures should also be a major focus in 2018. Seventy percent of survey respondents noted that their company plans to divest businesses next year. This rush of unit shedding will be driven by financing needs and strategy shifts.