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Pandemic Panic Creates Dealmaking Opportunity

Fears of coronavirus have sent a shudder through financial markets, dampening enthusiasm for dealmaking and leading to a 31% drop in the volume of acquisitions involving British companies, according to Refinitiv data.

But several studies suggest dealmakers shouldn’t be deterred by the downturn. Amidst the financial turmoil, bold and disciplined acquirers could have the chance to buy at lower valuations than previous years – and realise more value from their purchases.

Deals inked in times of macroeconomic turmoil, found a study led by Jens Kengelbach in 2018, created more value for buyers in the mid-term than similar acquisitions made in a strong economy.

So-called “weak-economy” deals lifted the valuation of companies almost nine percentage points higher than equivalent deals made in a strong economy over a period of two years. This can be put down to the increased scrutiny of a more confident and experienced group of buyers, lower competition, and the reduced risk of overpaying.

As such, 50% of deal-making executives plan to take advantage of the downturn by stepping up the pace of acquisitions. That’s according to an early March study from law firm White & Case, which surveyed a group of executives and found half of them expected to close more deals if the economy suffers a downturn in 2020, and 86% expected M&A activity to increase overall.

Similar optimism was voiced prior to the financial crisis of 2008, but this time the banks are in better shape, and although lenders are likely to be more selective, there is likely to be credit available for the right deals.

Once the splash left by the coronavirus black swan subsides, and the scope and duration of the outbreak are determined, the outlook for lending and M&A will become more clear. But as market volatility eases, we could see a fresh wave of dealmaking as companies position themselves for a fast recovery.

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