Mega-Deals Fuel Record Month for M&A Activity

The upcoming presidential election hasn't dampened activity, with U.S. firms striking $248.9 billion of merger agreements this month.
Matthew HellerOctober 28, 2016
Mega-Deals Fuel Record Month for M&A Activity

Even with the presidential election looming, U.S. companies have been making deals at a frantic rate, breaking the monthly record for M&A volume.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, “the eve of a presidential election is typically a time when companies put merger plans on hold and wait for clarity on crucial matters like antitrust policy.”

But according to Dealogic, U.S. companies have struck $248.9 billion of merger agreements this month, topping the previous record of $240 billion in July 2015. Last week’s volume set a single-week record of more than $177 billion.

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This month has seen such mega-deals as Qualcomm agreement Thursday to buy NXP Semiconductors for $39 billion, the second-largest pure technology acquisition of all time; AT&T’s agreement to buy Time Warner for $85 billion, the largest takeover deal of the year; and British American Tobacco’s $47 billion offer to take full control of Reynolds American.

“A lot of industries are going through transformations and what CEOs and boards are focused on now is how to position their companies for the future,” Steven Baronoff, chairman of global M&A at Bank of America, told the WSJ. “Whether there is an election going on is not that relevant in how they set themselves up for the long term.”

M&A activity is being fueled by, among other things, weak sales growth in a slow economy and large corporate cash hoards. Many companies are “looking to deploy their cash hoards in ways that will ensure future growth after spending years aggressively buying back stock,” the Journal said.

In the second quarter, S&P 500 companies bought back $127.5 billion in stock, the lowest amount in two years, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices analyst Howard Silverblatt.

Firms also may not be holding their breath waiting for a loosening of antitrust policy. “It has been a pretty [tough] regime for the past few years, and most people think that regardless of who wins [the presidential election] regulatory scrutiny is likely to continue, so there is no reason to hold off deal making,” Baronoff said.