Can corporate mergers help save the weak US economy?
Domestic merger and acquisition deals totaled $584.4 billion through June – the highest total since before the financial crisis
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Interestingly, the depressed real estate market was the leader in global deal volume for the first half, suggesting that cheap valuations and low cost of capital rather than macroeconomic strength are dictating deal interest.Skip to next paragraph
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Real estate saw 1,406 deals worth $152.1 billion, marking the first time the industry ever led the M&A trade as it saw 21 deals with more than $1 billion, according to Dealogic.
Private equity, or "financial sponsor" deals, also were strong, with volume reaching $94.9 billion for the half, up 8 percent from the previous year.
Telecom was the third most popular sector, with $137 billion in volume, and is expected to remain a popular deal sector for the remainder of the year. The biggest first-half deal, in fact, was AT&T's announced $39 billion takeover of rival T-Mobile.
"If you see valuations in particular sectors that look too good to pass up, you'll definitely see some acquisitions and mergers there," Warren says. "It wouldn't be a surprise to see more significant ones in the technology space."
How all that bodes for the broader economy is a less certain call. For all its 2011 strength, M&A had a choppy year.
Volume dropped 20 percent in the second quarter from the first, though May gained 27 percent from April and reversed a two-month slide.
Investors, at least, seem to have enjoyed the M&A climate, pushing the broader market higher and generally rewarding deals with pushes higher not only in individual stocks but also across the major averages.
"Overall there is more confidence in the corporate board room today," Aryeh Bourkoff, head of investment banking at UBS, said in a CNBC interview. "The markets have been rewarding M&A. Investors are saying buybacks are not enough anymore."
Of course, that will depend on making good deals and on costs remaining low, a bit of an uncertain prospect now that the Federal Reserve has left the bond market.
For the economy, though, a strong M&A environment could prove a lynchpin to offsetting the other weaknesses.
"You just have to get the right mix of people involved," Warren says. "Somebody's got to want to move the needle."