This Week’s NEW NORMAL in M&A

This Week’s NEW NORMAL in M&A

By Dan Vermeire

March 24, 2020

What a difference a week or two can make! The world has gone to war against the Coronavirus, the DOW is down by a third, and most of the population is sheltering at home.

What does this mean to the M&A market? The answer is… it depends.

This crisis is unique. The financial crisis of 2008/09 nearly killed the banking industry. Banks were essentially closed – couldn’t or wouldn’t lend into deals. Most buyers were very shy and without the support of the banks, they had to work with limited capital. Naturally, times were very lean in M&A.

In this crisis, the banks are still open and interest rates are lower than ever. Most buyers are still flush with cash and want to put it to work. For the most part, the buy-side is still strong.

But for sellers and businesses in general, you need to look on a case-by-case basis. Some sectors are terrible. With the Saudi/Russia/US oil war, the O&G sector is not very attractive for buyers. Airlines, cruise lines, hotels and restaurants, and anything directly servicing them are very difficult targets now and for the foreseeable future. Many won’t survive.

However, some sectors are stronger because of the Coronavirus. IT Services is very strong, if their customer base isn’t tied to one of the sectors mentioned above. Healthcare continues to be strong. And most food companies are strong, especially ones in the “good for you” products. Many other sectors are strong too.

With some sectors being unattractive, the buyers’ universe of good targets has just gotten smaller. That means that companies in the strong sectors have become more interesting.

Keep in mind that many companies are scrambling to adjust to the new conditions and revamp their strategic plans. Many have travel restrictions and other logistical challenges. All to say that it is more difficult to engage and make progress on M&A deals. But, not impossible. With the right combination of buyer and seller, deals are continuing to move forward.